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Exclusive – Social Initiatives Help Kick off School Year in Yemen’s Raymah

Exclusive – Social Initiatives Help Kick off School Year in Yemen’s Raymah

Monday, 15 October, 2018 - 08:15
Yemeni students look out of a hole in the wall of a classroom that was damaged in the country’s conflict. (AFP)
Raymah (Yemen) – Asharq Al-Awsat
Yemeni teacher Abdullah Hafthallah, 45, supports a family of 12. He has relied for the past 24 years on the monthly salary he earns while working as teacher in the al-Salafiyah district in the western Raymah governorate. This is his only source of income, as is the case with thousands of his colleagues in Raymah.

The last time he was paid, however, was in September 2016 and there are little hopes that he will be paid any time soon.

He dejectedly told Asharq Al-Awsat that relief agencies have yet to include teachers in their aid effort.

He doubted also that the academic institutions that have been seized by the Iran-backed Houthi militias would take the initiative to find solutions, even temporary ones, that would grant teaches some form of respite. As it stands, teachers have “dropped out” of school and chosen to work in other sectors.

Another year without salaries

The school year in Raymah began in mid-September amid pledges from local authorities that they were working on finding solutions to provide a living for teachers in a hope that they would be encouraged to fulfill their teaching duties as required.

There is little hope for a solution.

Experts remarked that the school year kicked off because teachers shared “a humanitarian, national and moral obligation towards 110,000 students,” who should not be deprived of their right to an education.

Given the failure of Houthi-controlled authorities from finding the desired solution, many social initiatives have been taken in various Raymah regions to ease the teachers’ salary crisis.

Parents have been paying a monthly sum for each student, a part of which is given to the teachers. Some schools rely on donations from expatriates or local businessmen to pay teachers.

Charitable donations for the teachers had stopped around a year ago. Local and regional relief groups had pledged to offer aid in this regard, but nothing has materialized yet, said a local Raymah official.

High hopes on social initiatives

Academic officials said that “we are counting on various social initiatives throughout the province” in order to ensure that the current academic year continues at over 600 schools throughout Raymah.

This is a temporary solution until an initiative proposed by UNICEF, in partnership with other international agencies, is implemented. The proposal calls for paying each teacher $50.

One academic official described as “completely unjustified” the halt in the teachers’ monthly salaries.

“The service they provide goes to all of society in all of its segments. There is no justification for subjecting the education sector to conflicts,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Depriving teachers of their salaries does not only target them, but millions of students,” he added.

Teaching came to a halt at a number of schools in Raymah for several reasons, depriving more than 30,000 students of an education.

‘We don’t blame the teachers’

The salary cut affected 3,800 teachers in the province’s six districts. Students left without an education led many of them to join the battlefronts, said al-Salafiyah local official Mohammed Ahmed Ali.

He called on the international community to assume its responsibilities in saving Yemen from war that seems endless. One of the consequences of this conflict is depriving students of an education, which will affect their future.

He said that teachers should not be blamed for the crisis.

“They are facing extremely difficult conditions… and we appreciate the social initiatives, though modest, that are being dedicated to them,” he stressed.

International estimates said that the war has affected no less than half a million Yemeni students since 2015. Some 3.7 million others could be forced out of school if teachers are not paid their wages.

They warned that the education sector could face collapse, which would leave children vulnerable to trafficking, early marriage or recruitment to join the war.

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