WB boosts basic education in Yemen [Archives:2004/699/Reportage]

January 1 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
One of the major challenges facing education today in Yemen is the fact that Yemen has some of the worst school enrollment and literacy rates in the world, especially for girls and women which can be, of course, a real challenge to economic development. According to World Bank (WB) officials, the net primary school enrollment for boys and girls are 65% and 41% respectively. That is, 40% of children in Yemen are still out of schools. The situation is far worse in rural areas with only 30% of girls enrolled. Moreover, 50% of the girls who start primary school drop out before they reach grade 6. Therefore, 4 million women (22% of the country's population) are illiterate.

Good Education Development Strategy
The government of Yemen as well as the (WB) and other donors are aware of this issue. Mr. Ousmane Diagana, Senior Operations Officer of the Human Development Sector at the WB office in Sana'a said in an interview with the Yemen Times that the government of Yemen is considering education as its priority and is allocating a lot of money for education. “The WB is also supporting it in this regard as we consider education a central part of our programs in Yemen. Our intervention in Yemen covers all education sector; basic, secondary, technical and vocational and higher education. We would like to make sure that the maximum of the children go to school, achieve their objectives and contribute to the development of the country,” he said. He says that there is a special focus on girls' education. This would help the government achieve its priority in the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) with regards to education as well as its Basic Education Development Strategy (BEDS) which has been, according to Diagana, endorsed by the Basic Education Conference held in October 2002 in which all stakeholders were involved. Based on that, Yemen has been elected among few countries in the world to be eligible to what is called Education For All Fast-Truck Initiative (EFA- FTI); Yemen prepared a suitable education strategy which has been reviewed and endorsed by the international community. This is why, says Diagana, Yemen got $ 10 million for 2004 in a meeting held in Oslo last November and was attended by the Minister of Education, Dr. Abdulsalam al-Jawfi and Dr. Abdulateef al-Munaifi, head of the Basic Education Expansion project as well as Mr. Diagana. The committed fund will be used to implement a part of the BEDS projects. The WB believes that allocating $ 10 million from the Catalytic Fund to Yemen out of $ 35 million is recognition of the Government and its partners positive efforts to expand the coverage and improve the quality of basic education in Yemen. He says that for countries to be eligible under the FTI, they need to have a good PRS, a very good educational sector strategy and, of course, a strong commitment of the government to support education. “These three factors are available in Yemen. The government is allocating a lot of resources to education. In comparison to several countries, Yemen is doing very well in terms of financial support to education,” he observes. “All the donors in Yemen are willing to sign what we call it a Partnership Declaration with the government of Yemen in January 2004 to work more closely together and to improve their coordination, making sure that the program is in line with government priority so as to lower the transaction cost and to maximize the benefits in education,” he adds.

However, there are, according to Diagana, some challenges like the expansion of access to make sure that all children go to school. The other one is that the geographical condition of Yemen is very difficult as there are several scattered settlements which make it not easy to have a school in every area. The other thing is the socio-economic condition where families are large and many of them are poor, unable to afford education expenses.

WB Committed to education support
Mr. Diagana points out that the WB contribution to education in Yemen covers 5 main projects with a budget of $ 200 million. They are as follows: Basic Education Expansion Project whose credit amount is $ 56 million. The closing date of the project which aims to increase the grade 1-6 enrollment for rural areas is December 2005. The second one is Child Development Project with a budget of $ 28.9 million and is supposed to be implemented until 2005. It aims to improve the health and nutritional status of children under 5 and educational status of girls in primary schools. The third one is Education Sector Investment Project with a credit amount of $ 32 million and a closing date September 2004. The project objective is to improve access of girls to secondary education, enhance learning achievements of secondary schools and assist of the government of Yemen to establish a post secondary education relevant to the needs of the labor market. The fourth is Higher Education Project with $ 5 million and will terminate by 2006. It aims to help the government in preparing a higher education reform strategy and to pilot initial phases of its implementation. The fifth is Vocational Education and Training Project with a credit amount of $ 24.3 million. This aims to strengthen vocational training system management by providing a major role to the private sector in policy-making, management and financing of the vocational training system.
He says that the WB is building 50 female secondary schools in the rural areas to ensure that girls can go to secondary education as lack of secondary schools in some areas force girls to drop out education at large.

Improving poor quality
With regards to the quality of education in Yemen, Mr. Diagana says it is “very poor at every level as you do not have standard core competence and national assessment of teachers who are not well-motivated and the way they are recruited is not very efficient.” “It is a key for us to support teachers training and school supervision as well as the students to get all the materials they need for education. More importantly, we support the involvement of communities in school activities. We are also supporting the revision of the curriculum to make sure it is well-designed as well as supporting a system of evaluation of teachers learning,” he points out. He admits that both expansion and quality of education are major challenges, stressing that it not that easy to improve the expansion and quality at the same time and that finding the right approach to carry out the two things together is a another challenge. “But, it is possible to do that if the system is well-managed, getting the necessary support,” he says. He believes that improving the quality depends mainly on teaching, making sure that teachers are getting continued training. He says that the WB every year supports the training of all teachers in the secondary education.
He confirms that the WB carries out a day-to-day monitoring of the projects achievements with the ministry of education.