Although a definition of inclusive education has not been found, the 2013–15 Mid Term Results Framework of the Yemen Education Sector Plan mentions the priority of ‘Closing the gap of social and gender disparities through an equitable education system able to give equal opportunities at the start to every child, so they could compete fairly in the labour market of tomorrow.’
Special education needs
‘Special needs’ are mentioned many times in the 2013–15 Mid Term Results Framework, which highlighted that about 120,721 students with special needs and with different handicaps were enrolled in public schools. Special education colleges provide education for people with special human, academic and psychological needs, mostly because of disabilities.
Article 28 of the Education Law No. 45 of 1992 states that the Yemeni state is to establish special schools and education institutions to educate and care for those with disabilities to ensure that they receive basic education based on their needs. In parallel, Articles 4 and 5 of Law No. 61 of 1999 for the care for and habilitation of the disabled state that education is a right for persons with disabilities. The focus is on creating specialized centres and institutes where persons with disabilities will be trained and educated separately from other students.
According to the British Council, non-government organizations play a large role in the education of students with special needs. For instance, in 2014, ‘200 schools [were] trying to include pupils with special needs in all classroom activities, and 80 schools [had] resources and equipment to help visually and hearing-impaired children. In some of these schools, children with special needs receive[d] an hour a day of individual tuition, spending the rest of their time in class with their peers.’
According to a 2015 UNICEF country report, ‘schools do not necessarily accept children with disabilities due to inaccessible buildings, lack of specialized teaching materials and staff as well as lack of transport to and from school.’
Specialist institutes exist for the education of students with specific groups of disabilities. For example, the Rehabilitation Institute for Special Education and Speech Education was the first institution to be opened for those with mental disabilities, cerebral palsy and hearing impairments.
Yemen has not signed or ratified the UN Convention Against Discrimination in Education but ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. Further, Article 54 of the 1991 Constitution states that education is a right for all citizens. The state is to guarantee education in accordance with the law through building various schools and cultural and education institutions. Basic education is mandatory. The Constitution stipulates that the state must do its best to eliminate illiteracy and give special care to expanding technical and vocational education.
In addition, Article 8 of the 1992 Education Law states that education is free at all levels and that the state commits to apply and secure that right gradually. The Yemeni government therefore has a commitment under law to provide universal, compulsory, free education to all children aged 6 to 14. Moreover, the 2003–15 National Basic Education Development Strategy aimed to increase enrolment in basic education to reach 95% of 6- to 14-year-olds in Yemen by 2015. In 2017, Yemen endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration.
Yemen ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. Articles 4 and 5 of Law No. 61 of 1999 state that education is a right for persons with disabilities. Additionally, the law affirms the right of persons with disabilities to health, work and education and their right to accessible buildings. The 2014–18 National Strategy for Disability introduces six strategic goals which include changing societal attitudes and perceptions of disability; revising current policies; integrating issues related to disability within various national policies, plans, strategies and programmes; and service-provision mechanisms and systems.
The Social Fund for Development was established by Law No. 10 of 1997 with the aim, among others, to support ‘infrastructure and improving the quality of educational and social services provided for people with special needs, the rural extension of services, building the capacity of service providers, with an expansion in establishing the educational service provided for the visually impaired, targeting new segments of people with disabilities such as children with autism and learning difficulties and continuing support and develop policies and strategies based on a participatory and human rights approach’. One of its programmes aims to integrate children with special needs in general education by supporting the work of the ministries of education and social affairs and their departments, establishing education resource units, training people, providing schools with education methods and tools, and strengthening the infrastructure of special education centres.
Yemen acceded to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Child protection programming targets boys and girls in schools across the country with life skills education, based on the UNICEF Life Skills and Citizenship Education Framework. This approach aims to keep children in school and equip them with core skills, thus contributing to the prevention of child marriage and recruitment into armed forces and groups. Adolescents who receive the life skills package are engaged in adolescent-led community-based initiatives and supported to act as agents of change in their communities on issues that matter to them, with a protection focus (for example child marriage) and gender equity approach. Girls’ access to education has been deeply impacted by conflict in the country.
Ethnic and language groups
The most important language in Yemen is Sanaani Arabic, which is spoken by both North Yemenis and Yemenis in Tihama (41.2%). It is followed by Taizi-adeni Arabic (36%), Hadrami Arabic (17%), Somali Arabic (1.5%), Sudanese Arabic (1.3%), Hebrew (1%), Omani Arabic (0.5%), Sokotri (0.3%), Mehri (0.3%), Malay (0.1%) and Mesopotamian Arabic. Palestinian Arabic (or Northern Levantine), Western Farsi, Egyptian Arabic, Gulf Arabic, Standard Arabic, Judeo-Yemeni Arabic and Hobyot are spoken by small linguistic communities.
Arabic remains the only language of instruction in public schools from primary school to university. The Ministry of Education prescribes the teaching of English as a second language from primary school onwards. Public schools provide religious education exclusively for the Muslim religion. However, almost all non-Muslims can receive their instruction in private schools, and they are considered foreigners.
Yemen voted in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
To ensure sufficient female teachers are assigned to rural areas, UNICEF paid the salaries of 1,589 female teachers who work in these areas.
Poverty and other vulnerabilities
Yemen participated in a multi-year project led by UNESCO, organized by UNESCO’s offices in Beirut, Cairo and Paris and funded by the Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud Foundation, that aimed to assess current status and help countries exchange experiences regarding successful inclusion of vulnerable groups, including marginalized groups and students in conflict areas. In addition, 1,595,247 children were reached through UNICEF support. With UNICEF Yemen’s assistance, 7,726 out-of-school children (including 3,419 girls) were integrated into formal education through support for community-based classes in Taiz, Abyan, Amran and Al-Hodeidah.
Three ministries manage education in Yemen: the Ministry of Education for pre-basic, basic and general secondary education; the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for post-basic and postsecondary TVET; and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for university education. The Ministry of Education established a unit dedicated to inclusive education in 2014. In parallel, Law No. 2 of 2002 established the National Fund for the Care and Habilitation of the Disabled. Both that fund and the National Fund for Development aim to improve opportunities for children with disabilities to access basic education and to improve their integration both socially and in education. Finally, Presidential Decree No. 5 of 1991 stipulated the establishment of the Supreme Committee for the Care and Habilitation of Disabled Persons with the key objective to develop policies and national programmes targeted towards serving persons with disabilities. The committee is also mandated with coordinating efforts among various actors and entities serving that segment of society.
Concerning gender, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, established in 1991, develops ‘country strategies and promotes policies aiming to improve the situation of motherhood and childhood in Yemen.’
The Ministry of Education has established a Safe Schools Committee to support the implementation of the Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict.
According to the 2018 Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack report Education Under Attack, Yemen was among the nine countries most heavily affected by attacks on education between 2013 and 2017. During that time, reports indicated that ‘between one-quarter to one-half of airstrikes ... struck schools or universities in Saada governorate each year’. Armed forces and armed groups have used dozens of schools and universities for military purposes throughout the armed conflict in Yemen.
Concerning students with disabilities, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour reported in 2014 that the number of accessible schools in Yemen did not exceed 20% of all schools across the country.
UNICEF Yemen provided WASH facilities in 218 schools that were rehabilitated across seven governorates to benefit 172,155 schoolchildren (including 84,417 girls). It also procured supplies to benefit children in school, including desks for 1,350 children (746 girls), learning supplies for 41,907 children (20,568 girls) and school snacks for 33,950 children (15,254 girls) in four targeted governorates (two in the north and two in the south).
Article 6 of Law No. 61 of 1999 states that the Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for working with concerned entities to prepare curricula and learning materials for centres as well as to ensure the availability of teachers and personnel specialized in Braille and develop curricula for persons with visual impairments. Article 8(e) of the same law states that the ministry is to coordinate with public and private universities and colleges to create departments specialized in habilitating and developing specialized curricula for them.
Article 8(d) of Law No. 61 of 1999 for the care for and habilitation of the disabled states the Ministry of Social Affairs is to coordinate with universities and various institutes to prepare specialized educators to be responsible for special education programmes, vocational training, cultural programmes and media programmes and for training them to help address the needs of the disabled and to help them develop their knowledge. Decision No. 152 of 1990 emphasized the importance of integrating care and habilitation for persons with disabilities into the programmes and curricula of Sanaa University and Aden University.
Between 2011 and 2014, the British Council ran training and awareness programmes across Yemen to foster inclusion. These included the provision of training for nearly 1,500 teachers and 30 head teachers and school assemblies introducing more than 1,500 Yemeni schoolchildren to the importance of respecting special education needs.
UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme first started supporting psychosocial support training in Yemen in 2017. When completed, the programme will have trained master trainers from both sides of the conflict in psychosocial support who will then go on to train local governorate focal points. They will in turn train up to 320 primary and secondary school teachers across 24 schools. CapED replicated the psychosocial support initiative in Syria and expanded it to offer it as part of the Second Chance Programme. UNICEF also supported teachers through financial incentives despite the risks and initial lack of support. It provided addition education-related support interventions through the training of 4,055 teachers on psychosocial support, resulting in 133,356 children (including 55,127 girls) who were better supported to cope with the trauma of the conflict. In addition, 662,927 children (including 285,059 girls) in the north and south were able to sit for the grade 9 to 12 exams with UNICEF supporting the payment of related fees for the 2017/18 school year.
Yemen has no national education monitoring report. Further, it was unclear from all the available laws and documents reviewed what types of monitoring and reporting are in place regarding inclusive education in Yemen. However, one of the objectives of the Global Partnership for Education is the modernization of the education management information system (EMIS).