GCE Middle-East Region: news round-up
YEMEN: As continued conflict takes its toll, civil society works to ensure education remains a priority
The ongoing conflict in Yemen is taking its toll on the education system. Children are facing significant emotional and psychological damage - it’s estimated more than 2 million children are out of school due to the fighting and insecurity. Despite significant improvements, equitable access to education remains a challenge, as shown by persistent gender and regional disparities in education. Prior to the conflict, the completion rates for schoolchildren were already low: only half of those who entered grade 1 reached the end of the basic education phase (grade 9). Furthermore, serious concerns around the quality of education in the country have been raised for many years. Unsurprisingly, the crisis has exacerbated these pre-existing problems.
To date, more than 2,000 schools are out of use due to physical damage or being occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs) or armed groups. According to a Ministry of Education survey published just this month (April 2017), 75% of 6-17-year-olds are enrolled in school. However, as a result of the escalating food crisis and deteriorating security situation, drop-out rates are increasing - especially among girls. Add to this the fact that over half of IDPs in Yemen are under 19, it's clear why fewer children and young people are managing to go to school. Those boys that are not in school are at risk of being recruited for military purposes, and girls are at increased risk of being married earlier.
In addition, a lack of financial resources has contributed to delays in printing textbooks, learning materials and examination papers, as well as delays in paying teachers’ salaries. In fact, UNICEF estimates that nearly 75% (166,000) of teachers in the country that have not received a salary since October last year. The lack of credible data simply exacerbates the challenges – without accurate data, it’s difficult to know exactly what support is needed, and where it’s needed most.
After the onset of the conflict, many NGOs ceased their activities. However, GCE’s members the Yemeni Coalition for Education for All (YCEA) continued to mobilise communities. By getting local leaders from different political parties, including armed groups, to sign a code of conduct agreeing to cease the targeting of students and schools, referred to as the ’Black Shame’, YCEA was able to encourage families to send their children back to school in 2015 and 2016. The document was also shared by the media to ensure that parents and local actors were of aware of the situation.
Local communities have demonstrated a remarkable degree of resilience throughout the ongoing conflict and the Yemeni coalition has continued to support them. It implemented community and school-based activities that encouraged students to re-enrol in school in 2016/2017. Furthermore, it encouraged local communities to offer temporary premises for alternative schooling, made donations to support teachers, organised the recycling of old books due to a lack of textbooks, and distributed school-bags and stationery. Meanwhile, the Yemeni Coalition for Education continues to engage with the government and relevant authorities to ensure education is a priority.
Global Action Week for Education is another opportunity for the coalition to direct attention to the importance of ensuring education for all despite the crisis. Their campaign primarily targets policy-makers and the national media; Citizens already understand that education is key to rebuilding their country and their future.
[all photos by Yemeni Coalition for Education for All (YCEA) 2017]
MOROCCO: What next for public education in Morocco?
The share of private education providers in Morocco has tripled in the last 15 years, which has led to fierce debate and analysis from all quarters. What does this mean for public education in the country? Alarmingly, in 2016, the then-Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane declared that the State should 'disengage itself' from education and health provision, which begs the question: Is the government fulfilling its obligations to provide free, quality education for all? The UN has already raised concerns about the extent of privatisation of education in Morocco, joining the chorus of criticism coming from unions and civil society organisations. GCE’s coalition the Moroccan Coalition for Education for All has been at the forefront of this campaign and believes that the uncontrolled growth of private education in Morocco generates discrimination in education, and is a source of human rights violations.
Ahmed Al-Sahouate from the Moroccan Coalition for Education for All has written a paper (in Arabic) which looks at the quality of private education provision. Do those school fees pay for more qualified teachers and better student outcomes? Al-Sahouate concludes that private schools are not the answer - investing in public education is the only way forward: “Education is a basic human right that cannot be turned into a commodity for trading and profit. Let us protect and improve our public schools. This is the basis for building the future of our generations and the renaissance of our society and its foundations. It is the basis for preserving the dignity, equality and rights of our citizens.”
PALESTINE: Students in Askar refugee camp share their dreams for a quality education and a brighter future
This year, the Palestinian Education Coalition has planned a jam-packed Global Action Week for Education. Representatives from the Ministry of Education, UNRWA, as well as the National Education Team attended a press conference to kick-start almost three weeks of action. The coalition organised workshops for students across 18 education governorates to explore the theme of the 2017 campaign: accountability for SDG4 and citizen participation. Activities in schools were then held in three districts - Hebron, Nablus, and Qabatiya.
Activities were also held in the Askar refugee camp, on the outskirts of the city of Nablus, which is among the most densely populated West Bank camps. Speakers stressed that the right to a quality education must be protected even in times of crisis. There is an urgent need for more financing if this right is to be delivered. Girls who attend the Al-Awwal school on the camp launched balloons adorned with slogans representing their dreams for their education.
Events were organised with parliamentary representatives and members of the Education Committee in the Legislative Council to discuss their role and obligations for ensuring education for all. As well as a two-day training workshop for the media, the coalition coordinated with religious authorities to ensure Friday sermons discussed accountability in education. In this way, GCE’s members have encouraged all sections of society to stand up for education this Global Action week, including both citizens and the government.
Why not follow the Palestinian Educaion Coalition on Facebook to keep up-to-date with news and activities: @PalestinianEducationCoalition
[photo credit: Palestinian Education Coalition 2017]