The Forgotten Front: Yemen’s Education Crisis Two Years into the Truce

CH11000537 Kids walking in camp in Lahj Yemen

In April 2022, the United Nations facilitated a truce in the Yemen conflict, marking the first significant pause since its inception in 2014. This truce held a beacon of hope for many civilians, families, and children, promising stability, peace, and a return to normalcy. Although successful in reducing casualties by approximately 85%, as well as hostilities and displacement over the past two years, the truce fell short in ensuring the fundamental right to safe, inclusive, and quality education for children.

According to a recent 2024 report by Save the Children, two out of every five children, totaling 4.5 million, find themselves outside the school system, with displaced children facing twice the likelihood of dropping out compared to their peers. A staggering three-quarters of students (76%) express that their sense of safety has not improved, with 14% of families attributing violence as a direct cause of their children abandoning education. These statistics not only raise grave concerns for the future well-being of these children but also underscore the perpetuation of cycles of poverty and instability. As the numbers paint a worsening picture, the search for underlying causes and viable solutions becomes increasingly urgent.

So, what are the primary factors exacerbating the educational crisis for Yemeni children?

First and foremost, poverty stemming from the conflict emerges as the main reason behind school dropouts. The nationwide poverty forces many families to withdraw their children from school, compelling them to seek work to sustain their households. This situation inevitably fuels an alarming rise in child labor, the enlistment of children as soldiers, and forced marriage, setting off a chain reaction of adverse consequences. In fact, many children themselves opt to leave school, recognizing that their parents alone cannot meet essential expenses for food and shelter.

Secondly, the pervasive sense of insecurity and fear associated with attending school constitutes another major deterrent to continued education. Despite the significant reduction in large-scale conflict following the truce, reports indicate that safety concerns persist among students, with 14% of families citing insecurity as the primary reason for their children’s absence from school. Indeed, numerous armed attacks near schools have resulted in tragic fatalities among children in recent years.

Addressing these challenges requires urgent action from Yemeni authorities, donor states, institutions, and humanitarian actors to ensure the reintegration of children into the educational system. It is imperative that parties to the conflict prioritize children’s right to education as an integral part of the truce and actively pursue peace so children can return to normalcy as soon as possible. Furthermore, the cessation of attacks close to school grounds is paramount, as these attacks are a grave violation of children’s rights and breach of International Humanitarian Law schools must be protected as safe zones for learning. Moreover, there must be an increase in international funding for education in Yemen, directing resources towards ensuring children’s security and sustaining the presence of teachers in schools to uphold the continuity of learning despite the conflict. One must not forget that education has been proven to be one of the primary drivers of peace. Countries with high levels of education tend to exhibit greater political and social cohesion, while countries with low levels of education are much more prone to internal conflicts. In Yemen, investing in education is therefore not only a moral obligation but also a strategic imperative for building a sustainable future for the country as a whole.