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When Teachers Become Street Vendors in Sanaa

When Teachers Become Street Vendors in Sanaa

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 - 09:30
12-year-old Azmi from Taiz is now living in a displacement camp in Aden City. Azmi's life has changed, from being in 6th Grade in school to bringing water to the camp every day. (UNICEF)
Sanaa- Asharq Al Awsat
Sadiq Ahmed Hazbar, a teacher at a school in Ibb province, had left his students to wander the streets of Sanaa, selling mulberry juice, to provide his family with its necessities after the government stopped paying his salary since a year and a half because of the armed struggle in the country.

"I had to carry a big 20-liter container on my back, full of mulberry juice, and I would wander the streets of Sanaa from morning till afternoon carrying plastic cups to sell my homemade brew,” Hazbar said.

He explained that he and his family had suffered a lot, but he decided not to give up and continue working to provide for his family.

Unlike Hazbar, Hanan Mustafa continues teaching at a school in the capital, but she summarizes the situation by saying, “I can not go on...My colleagues and I have lost confidence in ourselves.”

In light of salary cuts, some public schools asked parents to pay fees ranging from YR 1,000 to 2,000 a month to distribute to teachers attending, but in the end, the gathered money barely covers transportation fees, according to Mohammed Hossam, a teacher at a school in Moeen district in Sanaa.

"These sums are very small and do not compensate for the salary cuts. For me, it barely covers the transportation from home to school," says Hossam after asking him about the community contribution.

He wonders why authorities don’t commit to pay their salaries that they, and their families, depend on and is their only source of income.

“Would you believe if I told you that for over a month now, my children can not attend school because I could not afford the school expenses or the transportation costs?” he added.

Because of the salary cuts Hossam and his fellow teachers are unable to provide much of the requirements for survival and decent living, and most of them are forced to cut daily meals to only one meal or two per day, according to him.

Another teacher, Mahdi Abdullah al-Wahibi indicated that salary cuts had affected his three children as well: Amani (14), in seventh grade, Mohammed (10), in fifth grade, and Ahmad (6), the youngest who is supposed to begin his first school year.

"I'm an A student, I love education and I dreamt of being a teacher like my father when I grow up, but now I hate education because it made my parents sad and I no longer want to be a teacher," says Amani.

"How can I do my work when I am struggling for a living, and I can not even afford my bus fare to get to school?" asks Wahibi, adding: “What do you expect from a teacher who has reached this level of misery?"

According to Mahdi, several of his colleagues were forced to work in construction and restaurants to support their families, although the daily income from such jobs is very scarce. He also pointed out that some even pushed their children to work as street vendors.

Khaled al-Saidi, a school administrator, indicated that most of his school’s teachers sold their gold belongings to pay for transportation so that they could reach school.

An official at the education union sector, who asked not to be named, stressed that the suspension of salaries has put additional burdens on the lives of citizens, especially employees of the education sector, as it is perhaps the only sector that has not stopped working since the war broke out.

In his capacity as a trade union member, he urged the international community and its active organizations to contribute to the support and financing of education in Yemen.

About 72 percent of all teachers have not received their salaries for more than a year and a half, except half a salary they received about three times during the entire period.

About 4.5 million children have dropped out of school since the beginning of conflict in Yemen, according to a UNICEF assessment released recently.

“An entire generation of children in Yemen faces a bleak future because of limited or no access to education," said Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

“Even those who remain in school are not getting the quality education they need,” she added.

According to "If Not In School: The Paths Children Cross in Yemen", more than 2,500 schools are out of use, with 66 percent of the schools damaged by attacks, 27 percent closed and 7 percent used for military purposes or as shelters for displaced people.

UNICEF pointed out that the journey to school has also become dangerous as children risk being killed en route. Fearing for their children's safety, many parents choose to keep their children at home.

In addition, the lack of access to education has pushed children and families to dangerous alternatives, including early marriage, child labor and recruitment into the fighting.

According to the organization, since 2015, at least 2,419 children have been recruited in the fighting.

In the conclusion, on behalf of Yemeni children, UNICEF appealed to the warring parties, those who have influence on them, government authorities and donors to put an end to the war and all grave violations against children, stressing that: "peace and recovery are an absolute must if children in Yemen are to resume their schooling and get the quality education they urgently need and are entitled to."

The organization also called on the education authorities across Yemen to find an immediate solution to provide salaries for all teachers and education personnel so that children can continue to learn.

“Children and education staff must be kept out of harm's way and schools must be maintained as safe zones for learning,” added the report.

Finally, the UNICEF stated that “the international community, donors and development partners should support incentives for teachers while searching for long-term solutions to the salary crisis in Yemen, and continue supporting the education system.”

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