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Yemen: New Initiative to Achieve Millennium Goal of Primary Education for All

Yemen: New Initiative to Achieve Millennium Goal of Primary Education for All

Now more than ever, Yemen is coming closer to achieving the second Millennium Development Goal regarding primary education.

There’s a considerable gender gap in primary education and national illiteracy rates according to the government, which indicates that one out of every two Yemeni females is illiterate.

However, a network of 12 Girls Education Coordination Councils was established in an attempt to play a coordinating and influencing role in increasing the enrollment rate for girls and their retention.

Council members include deputy governors, general directors of the relevant ministries and department directors, as well as civil society representatives.

Education Minister Abdulsalam Al-Jawfi chaired the councils’ first workshop wherein 70 participants from Yemen’s 12 governorates assembled for two days to share success stories, identify challenges and obstacles and exchange organizational and technical suggestions.

“The councils will create a cooperation mechanism between governmental institutions, private sector and civil society organizations,” Al-Jawfi said at the inauguration.

He stressed that there is only one solution to Yemen’s major problems, as embodied in its high population growth rate, water scarcity and health problems, and that is to ensure education for women thereby creating an effective element within families.

The problem of girls’ education not only regards enrollment, but equally important is their retention in school, as there’s a particularly high dropout rate due to cultural reasons such as early marriage or economic reasons due to poverty.

According to the 2005 Arab Human Development Report, females account for just 52.8 percent of the number of males enrolled in primary education, and for secondary education, the rate is only 35.3 percent of enrolled males” making Yemen’s female enrollment rates among the lowest in the Arab world. Over the past few years, the Yemeni government has begun several initiatives to decrease the primary education gender gap between boys and girls, including abolishing school fees for girls, increasing the number of female teachers and having religious leaders encourage Yemeni families to educate their daughters.

Deputy education minister and director of the girls’ education sector, Fawzia Noman, notes that educating girls is a requirement for real democracy. “In order to experience true democracy, women should be educated, which will result in them selecting their choice for appropriate members of Parliament, rather than doing so according to their husband’s wishes,” she said at the workshop, adding, “It also will result in political parties developing more sophisticated programs.”

International organizations also have contributed to increasing girls’ education through anti-early marriage campaigns and school feeding programs.

“Education is the responsibility of society as a whole, not just the Ministry of Education or the government. Other actors have an important role to play as well and working together is essential to achieving constructive change,” commented UNICEF MENA Regional Director Sigrid Kaag, who attended the inauguration of the councils’ workshop.

Source: Yemen Times – 26 March 2008

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