Yemen’s Students Idle as Air Attacks Continue

Al-Fanar Media, April 17, 2015

SANAA—Students have been shut out of Yemen’s classrooms since the Saudi-led air attacks started on March 26. Those attacks have also killed hundreds of schoolchildren and damaged schools and universities.

“We decided to suspend classes in all public and private universities to ensure the safety of students and professors until further notice,” said Ali Qasim, the undersecretary of the higher education and scientific research ministry.

As a result, the nation’s five million students are idle. “The continuation of the educational process is impossible due to the bombardment and the displacement of large numbers of students and professors,” said Qasim.

The Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes against the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran much of Yemen and forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country. The coalition involves Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates. The United Kingdom and the United States have given logistical and diplomatic support. The attacks are particularly heavy in cities such as Sanaa and Aden, where Houthis control military bases and other strategic sites.

Hodeidah University—a branch of Sana’a University in the southwest of Yemen—was the subject of airstrikes causing severe damage to the faculty of medicine, health sciences and the faculty of pharmacy.

As a result, Sanaa University, the largest public university in the country, suspended most activities to avoid any casualties. “University Council meets every week to study the situation.” said Magdi Aklan, vice president of the University of Sanaa. “The university was not exposed to any damage so far, but many of the professors and students are unable to reach it because of the bombing.”

Public universities in Dhamar, Ibb, Taiz and the private University of Science and Technology in Sana’a made the same decision. “We cannot risk the lives of students,” said Essam Alraadi, the director of student affairs at the University of Science and Technology.

The three-week-old air campaign is also scarring schools. On April 8, an airstrike hit a school in central Yemen instead of a nearby military base, killing six children in central Yemen, international media reported. The school was reported to be only 500 meters from the base. At the time of the attack, children were on their way to lunch. Media also reported airstrikes hitting a school in Yemen’s central Ibb governorate, killing at least six more children.

Last week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that at least 74 children have been killed since the start of the airstrikes and 44 others have been injured. UNICEF’s Yemen representative, Julien Harneis, said in a statement that children are particularly vulnerable in the conflict. “They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted.”

A recent UNICEF report also estimated that one third of children in Yemen have been recruited as child fighters since the beginning of the coalition air strikes.

Although the school year is nearing completion, there is no sign so far that the attacks will end soon. “I am sad and depressed,” said Riad Nahari a student at the faculty of Sharia and law at the University of Sanaa.  Nahari spends his time nowadays helping his father in a small supermarket, “I am eagerly waiting until the war is over. I want to go back to my university.”