A New School Year Amid Unabated Teacher Suffering

2023-08-13 11:45 PM UTC

Sheba Intelligence

It was seven thirty in the evening. As the congregation concluded their late evening prayer in a Sana'a mosque, a man in his late forties rose to his feet immediately and addressed the congregation, telling them his tragic story. Apart from the details of the story— which may contain fictitious elements, his looks, his words, his appearance, indeed everything about him, suggested that the man was neither acting out a made-up role, nor did he seem to be one of those senseless brazen-faced lethargic drifters who would go to any lengths to earn a base livelihood. 

With eyes revealing a betrayed dream and a downcast head, weighed down with huge concerns, Khaled (a pseudonym), identified himself as a teacher. According to his story, he lives with his wife and kids in a place designed to be a shop and has been unable to pay the rent of his modest— indeed miserable lodging— or to pay off the hospital fees. 

A new school year has just commenced two weeks ago. Undoubtedly, Khaled no more goes to his workplace, or cares about his job. His catastrophe is too huge to leave any margin for any other concerns than his own, especially as he sees his cherished dreams of a decent life and a noble mission crushed to pieces. 

Khaled is one of those Yemeni teachers who had taught a generation of Yemeni students. Teachers, who have gone unpaid for the seventh year in a row, and are joined by unlucky new graduates each year, rely mostly on the modest contributions of their students, who are now almost universally obliged to pay a monthly amount of 1000 Yemeni riyals (less than $2) each. A teacher's share of the basically low sum of contributions amounts only to a few thousands of Yemeni riyals, an amount that does not cover the basic daily needs of a small household. Some teachers have resorted to private schools, where they generally fare no better. Again, the misfortunate teachers are hired against low salaries that are much lower than the amount their peers in public education used to receive, in spite of the fact that private schools have witnessed a greater enrollment rate during the last seven years. Teachers' demands of payment have fallen on deaf ears. 

The situation is much worse in rural areas, where the school year has shrunk to two four or five months at best. In such a context, one can hardly expect to find a quality or even an acceptable standard of education in the main cities, let alone rural areas where the lowest standards of education are not met. Dropout rates have also risen dramatically. According to a UNICEF report, 2 million Yemeni children at school age are out of school, and almost twice this number run the risk of dropping out of school. Teacher absenteeism, another study found, is the most important factor of girls' dropout. In short, education in Yemen suffers serious problems. A dark tunnel looms large ahead of generation of young Yemenis. To save them from the bleak future the horrible features of which are already evidenced by the multitudes of unschooled children in the markets and streets of Yemeni cities, teachers must not go unpaid anymore.