Back to School, Back to Hopelessness?

In many countries throughout the world, including Yemen, the next several weeks will mark the beginning of the new academic year. This landmark in time reminds us that education is the cornerstone for the development of every country. Through a strong education, generations of Yemen citizens could navigate their path to a better life. However, Yemen has been a victim of poor education for the past six decades and is declining to even lower levels in a century where other countries know no limits.

We know that currently many young Yemenis are not getting the proper education whether they are in a rural village, a regional capital, or even the capital city of Sana’a itself. Despite the little hope for a better tomorrow generated by the development of technology and the availability of information, this hope is quickly dimming.

The ongoing protest to change the regime has terribly affected the education system and it has brought severe disappointment among families to see their kid’s future collapse for the interest of few people. Last year, students across Yemen were forced to stop their education two months earlier for their safety. Nothing has changed since the school year abruptly ended last year, and I fear that this year will be worse for the students of Yemen.

Sadly, schools have become ideal places for government and anti -government to hide their weapons and a shelter for militia. Additionally, schools have been given to local refugees who have run away from their homes for a safe heaven. For the students themselves, their lives are fraught with danger as their homes are surrounded by protestors and anti-protestors who either trap them inside or bother them with their loud speakers’ songs and drama.

As I traveled outside of the country for the past two weeks, I felt pity for the children of Yemen who’ve lost the simple joy of going back to school on the first day.  The events in Yemen will continue to make lives hard for students as they find themselves victims of ugly politics in a country that does not value education. It is no surprise that more than 50% of Yemen’s population is illiterate.

We must ask ourselves two simple question as the new school year begins: Should we warmly welcome the new educational year in Yemen and embrace the hopeful future it can bring us? Or, should it be simply forgotten, resigning our country to a future of violence and ignorance? As my children’s ability to read and write deteriorate over the endless holidays, I hope we can all support our schools as they reopen in the coming weeks.