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Yemen: Government waives girls’ tuition fees to boost female enrolment

SANAA, Yemen, 7 May 2006 (IRIN) - The Ministry of Education announced on Saturday its decision to waive primary school tuition fees for female students in an effort to encourage school enrolment among girls.

“The goal is to boost girls’ enrolment and ensure they will continue learning,” said Education Minister Abdulsalam al-Jawfi. “We’re obliged to bridge the gap between male and female education – mainly in the countryside – and work towards achieving our goal of education for all by 2015.”

Al-Jawfi added that the decision, which targets around one million girl students for primary education, was in line with Yemen’s commitments to promote and expand education among the female population. Tuition for girls, therefore, which was formerly set at the equivalent of about US $3 per year, will now be entirely free of charge.

“I know school fees weren’t that much before, but they still represented an obstacle for many poor families,” said Abdulmalik al-Kamali, a village teacher. “I’m sure this decision will boost female enrolment.”

The move comes within the context of the government’s Basic Education Development Strategy (BEDS), developed in 2002 with the help of the World Bank and donor countries and agencies. According to Al-Jawfi, girls’ enrolment increased last year by 3.5 percent as a result of over 1,300 new education initiatives, including construction of schools and teacher training.

"Yemen prepared a suitable education strategy which has been reviewed and endorsed by the international community,” said BEDS Director Abdulateef al-Munaifi. “BEDS is targeting education quality, capacity building and encouraging child enrolment."

Nevertheless, an April statement from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that 46 percent of Yemeni children eligible for schooling “are not given basic education”, with primary school enrolment for boys and girls countrywide standing at about 65 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

The situation is particularly dire in rural areas, the agency noted, where only 30 percent of girls are enrolled in school. Moreover, half of the girls who begin primary school drop out before reaching the sixth grade. “The task before the educationists is formidable,” the UNICEF statement read, “and makes it obligatory on the national leadership to mobilise the support of all partners for realising the child's right to education.”

The current lack of education is reflected in national illiteracy rates, with almost half of those between the ages of 10 and 45 unable to read or write, according to government figures. While national illiteracy rates stand at about 30 percent for men, they exceed 67 percent for women.

In a regional conference held last week in Dubai, the Arab media pledged to highlight the issue of girls' education.



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