Yemen: 60 Percent of Children Whose School Came Under Attack Have not Returned to Classroom

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (October 25, 2021) — More than 60 percent of children surveyed in Yemen did not return to the classroom last year after their schools came under attack, according to a new Save the Children report. 

One out of five children surveyed also reported facing a security incident on their way to school that put their life at risk and their education in jeopardy. These incidents include kidnappings or attempted kidnappings, escalating violence, and harassment by strangers. 

The figures are disclosed in Save the Children’s new report Will I See my Children Again? released during the 4th International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration taking place from October 25-27 to protect education during armed conflict. 

“When we are at school, we hear explosions. We run inside the school and when they finish, we go out again to play. One of my friends got injured in one of the explosions,” said Omar*, 8. 

In the past five years, more than 460 schools have been attacked, including some caught in crossfire. More than 2,500 schools have been damaged, used as collective shelters for displaced families, or occupied by armed groups, resulting in 400,000 children being forced out of school.

Around 45 percent of children reported observing some form of military presence on their way to or from school. This is particularly worrying as nearly 90 percent of children surveyed said they walk to school every day.

“The situation here is quite worrying,” said Lamia, a teacher in Taiz, where escalating violence resulted in several school attacks in March. “The armed groups are walking around confidently 24/7, and the students see it every day. At any point, we expect shooting, and it often happens around the gate as the armed men made this school a military target. This puts children in grave danger. They have even stolen building materials; we are studying in fear.”

“The children we spoke to paint a very bleak picture. Schools should be safe havens and not zones of war,” said Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director. “Roofs penetrated by artillery, half demolished walls and classrooms reduced to rubble is what school means for many students in Yemen. 

“Often classes are taking place under the sounds of warplanes or the burning sun in a makeshift tent somewhere in a displacement camp. For some children, school is where they have lost their friends or got injured themselves, so many children don’t feel safe walking to school or continuing to study. 

“The war has reversed decades of educational gains for Yemeni children,” Joubert continued. “We cannot afford to allow children’s education to be further jeopardized. Children are the future of this country, and we need to make sure that their education is protected.”

Children who have fled their homes due to violence are less likely to return to school compared to other children. Nearly 75 percent of displaced children reported that schools in their hometowns came under attack, with more than 40 percent of the schools reportedly suspending classes for more than a year. Many of these children now live in displacement camps where they have no access to education.

Even in areas where schools are undamaged, fear of attacks and the recruitment of children at school discourage parents from sending their children to classes. 

Save the Children is urging all parties to the conflict to cease attacks against schools, de-militarize schools, protect children in times of armed conflict, and guarantee humanitarian access so children can access education safely. 

The organization is also calling for participants and international donors at the Safe Schools Conference to support emergency education interventions so Yemeni children can rebuild their future.  

“You won’t be able to find a single person who lives here who has not been harmed," said Salem, 50, a guidance counsellor in a school that was attacked in Sa’ada. “We are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety."

*Name changed to protect the identity 

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