New project for promoting children’s informal education in Yemen [Archives:2008/1158/Culture]

May 26 2008

AbdulaRahman Ahmed Abdu
Childhood and Youth Development Center
For The Yemen Times

There isn't much research, activities or attention paid to children's awareness and informal education in Yemen. This was the reason that encouraged the Yemeni government and organizations concerned with child development to create and support a national strategy for childhood and youth. One of the main objectives of this strategy is to endorse an educational environment that supports children awareness of their rights and of the world around them. Hence the creation of “Children and Youth Education Project for Supporting Development and Democracy” implemented by the Childhood and Youth Development Center and funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The problem with children's education in Yemen

According to Dr. Sultan Abdu Naji Al-Akehali, an assistant sociology professor at Sana'a University's Education College, explained that community and government interest in child and youth education outside schools is very recent and does not get adequate funding or support.

“There are gaps in child education systems, whether in schools or outside the school environment. The concept of awareness for children and youth is simply not there. And the growing population – Yemen is a young country with more than half of the inhabitants younger than 15 years old – is making the challenge of educating children even harder,” he said.

According to Al-Akehali, concerned authorities should work on segmenting the various stages of child and youth development and design programs targeting each stage individually. He also insisted that attention should be given to children and youths all around the republic and not just in the main cities.

He also emphasized the importance of providing children with visual and audio programs, as well as acting opportunities in theater plays and establishing child-appropriate educational programs to be shown in all governorates.

Huda Saleh Al-Najjar, General Director of the Women and Children Department in the Ministry of Culture, agreed that there is lack of attention and is concerned that there is no coordination between government and non-government activities regarding youth activities and awareness programs.

“We need to identify how much of the national income is dedicated to children and youth development and where this percentage goes or how it is used. We also need to publish more education materials and books targeting children,” she said. She added that there aren't as many publications or media dedicated to children as there should be, which is why there is a gap in children's awareness.

Non-governmental organizations for children and youths

There are only a limited number of organizations concerned with children and youths, although it is growing. Ibhar Foundation is a non-governmental organization in Yemen working in this field, which focuses on creating public libraries for children and child rights media.

Nabil Ahmed Al-Khadhir, Media and Public Relations officer at Ibhar, says that children's informal education is non-existent in Yemen. He called on the private sector to pay more attention to child-related activities that stimulate knowledge.

Children's literature specialist Abdulrahman Abdulkhaleq confirmed that the lack of media and publications dedicated to children is one of the main problems why Yemeni children are not as aware or as educated as others in developed countries. He also said that there are very few translated books from other cultures and this also isolates Arab children from learning about other cultures and being more aware of their world.

Abdulkhaleq is also a member of the executive office of the Yemeni Writers Union, and he explained that in 2005 the union produced 13 titles for children, none of which actually reached Yemeni children or received much promotion.

Children's opinions

The Childhood and Youth Development Center launched its first session within the Children and Youth Education Project for Supporting Development and Democracy in mid-May, at which they discussed the issue of Yemeni children and youth education.

During the session they invited two young children, 12-year-old Omar Tawfeeq Al-Zubairi and 13-year-old Salma Abdulghani, to express their opinion on the issue.

Omar criticized TV programs saying that most of what they call:

“children's programs” are cartoons and there aren't many constructive shows dedicated to children's educational development.

“I wish there were more programs that focus on talented children and like the Children's Studio Show on Yemeni Satellite Channel that hosts talented kids. It gives us inspiration and lets us know about potential careers we might want to be involved in,” he said.

Salma was more into outdoor activities and called on parents to “let your children have extracurricular activities” and to encourage children to get exposure to other cultures.

“You need to understand that children want to have fun. So parents should be able to create activities for us that are fun and educational at the same time,” she said.


Participants in the session decided on a number of recommendations to promote a better environment that encourages children and youth's learning. The main themes centered around respecting others, freedom of expression, and endorsing cultural values such as patriotism and community participation.

They also encouraged writers and academics that are dealing with child-related curricula to simplify the language and use standard terminology. Some of the specific recommendations were to establish a supreme national council for children's education, include activities and programs concerned with children's educational development in all the ministries' plans and agendas and allocate sufficient budgets for their implementation and establish a network of society-based organizations to bridge the gap between schools and the families and create an inclusive learning environment for children.