Mohammad never could have imagined himself doing anything else other than teaching – a profession he practiced for 23 years. Now, he is a vegetable vendor in Sanaa.
The Yemeni American News
Teachers in Yemen are struggling. Their schools are being bombed. Their classrooms are being seized and turned into military barracks, and their salaries are not being paid.
Yemenis are scrambling to find solutions to such problems.
These hardships are pushing many teachers and academics to the brink of homelessness and starvation. Late in 2017, one Yemeni teacher reportedly starved to death while living in extreme poverty.
These problems are especially exasperated in the Houthi controlled north of the country, where the internationally recognized government has stopped paying the wages of public sector employees after it moved the central bank from the capital Sanaa to Aden.
The move left about 166,000 Yemeni teachers without pay.
The war has seen 2,238 hit with 1,300 closed from the damage. Moreover, according to UNICIF, 7 percent of the schools are being used as shelters for internally displaced people.
The absence of wages in the north of the country has caused many teachers to leave the profession and move to rural area to find safety and a job in agriculture.
Once a teacher, now he sells Qat
Mohammad is one of those who had to find a new job because of the worsening state of education in the country.
“We reached a point where we had nothing to eat after a year of no wages,” he said. “Under this immense pressure, I had to find a new job selling vegetables. My pay was the sole source of income for me and my family.”
Mahboub, another teacher, taught Arabic in the central province of Ibb before finding a new source of income selling qat, the popular Yemeni mild morcatic.
“I could not continue at the school because I didn’t even have the means for the transportation to get there. My family barely has anything to calm our hunger,” Mahboub said.
“I had no other choice but to find something else. Now I am selling qat, and it is not great.”
This exodus of teachers in northern Yemen has caused an educational crisis, where even in schools that managed to remain open, there is a shortage of teachers. That’s why some schools are reducing their schedule to half day.
To address this situation, residents in rural areas are collecting donations to provide modest pay to teachers in their schools. In other areas, public schools have implemented tuitions that would be used to pay teachers.
According to UNICEF, 3.7 million Yemeni children are at risk of missing this school year if teachers are not paid. The war has already pushed at least half a million children out of school since 2015.
Late last year, UNICIF warned that an entire generation of children may lose their education and future.
“Further delay in paying teachers will likely lead to the collapse of the education sector and impact millions of children in Yemen making them vulnerable to child labor, recruitment into the fighting, trafficking, abuse and early marriage,” the organization said in a statement.
“Teachers who have not received regular salaries for two years, can no longer meet their most basic needs and have been forced to seek other ways of income to provide for their families.”
Last year, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called education “one of the biggest casualties of this conflict.”
The UN agency announced late in October that it received $70 million from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to pump into Yemen’s education system and pay teachers, but it remains unclear how this money will be distributed, amid repeated teachers’ strikes in the capital.
“We urge the warring parties to end this conflict and allow children to resume their childhood. Peace is the only solution,” Fore said in a statement.
While the war’s short term effects include the destruction of buildings, the long term effects may be robbing Yemen’s children of knowledge, intellect and the chance of healthy development.