DUBAI // Two million children in Yemen could soon be attending their first primary school class following a decision by Dubai Cares to fund education programmes in the country's rural areas. Having surpassed its initial target of providing one million children with access to primary school education, the humanitarian initiative founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has partnered with Unicef to promote education, particularly for young girls, in rural areas where enrolment is low.
The venture, which follows joint primary education programmes between the two organisations in Djibouti and Sudan, will operate over several years and will support policy formulation as well as direct involvement in communities. Reem al Hashimy, the chair of Dubai Cares' board of directors, said: "Dubai Cares realises that prioritising girls' education is the prime responsibility for all sectors of society. It also underlines that getting all Yemeni children to school, especially girls, is a national obligation."
Despite an encouraging increase in total enrolment rates for primary schools in Yemen from 73 per cent in 2000-2001 to 76 per cent in 2004-2005, the rate of enrolment for girls is just 63 per cent. "While the gender parity has been improving, with this pace of progress it will be challenging for Yemen to achieve its Millennium Development goals for gender equality in education by 2015," Ms Hashimy said.
Since 1990, when North and South Yemen unified, the country has had to deal with the merging of two different political and administrative systems, the effects of the Gulf War and the impact of the 1994 civil war. Unicef's Yemen office is working with the country's ministry of education and donor partners on a three-year action plan to implement its "Basic Education Development Strategy", which aims to provide education for all.
Dubai Cares and Unicef will work together to improve the quality of education, renovate damaged school premises, distribute school supply materials, support extra-curricular activities and ensure the supply of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. The programme will also deliver a series of teacher training programmes, which will reach approximately 1,900 teachers, 400 of whom will be female, and provide school kits to children aged six to 14 years so that they have the basic tools and materials required.
The organisations estimate more than 30,000 children in 60 schools will benefit during the first year, a figure likely to double in the second year when another 50 schools are added to the programme. The programme will provide training and support to school management committees, parents' councils, women's associations in nine focus districts as well as to the ministry of education at central, governate and district levels.
Dubai Cares has prioritised its phase one grants to countries demonstrating the highest gap in primary education, last month announcing 12 countries that will benefit, including Bangladesh, Bosnia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Niger and Sudan. Aboudou Karimou Adjibade, the Unicef representative in Yemen, said: "The contribution comes at the most opportune time as Yemen's efforts for promotion of girls' education are gaining ground. The contribution will go a long way in sustaining the momentum and ensuring that girls not only get into schools but stay on to complete their education."