Like many girls in rural Yemen, Raysa Al-Kholani was married off early—in Grade 7—and faced long odds in continuing her studies. Her in-laws insisted she stay home and care for a family of what would become nine children, but she had other ideas: she enlisted her husband's support to return to school.
"I had to take my children with me every day to the school walking almost 8 kilometers," she recalled. "Many girls in my community rejected my friendship because I was studying with boys."
She persevered, eventually landing work as a volunteer teacher after completing her studies. "When I joined the school, the number of girls was only 10 but after two years, the number of girls went up to 95. My role now is not only teaching but also advocating for girls' education."
Today, Raysa gives hope to Yemeni girls as one of a pioneering group of teachers trained by the government to work in rural areas, where a lack of female teachers contributes to low enrollment and low retention of girls in schools.
She is one of many who benefited from the education strategy developed by the Yemeni government and implemented with the support of its education partners, including with additional financial support from the Global Partnership for Education.
In 2002, the Government of Yemen developed the National Basic Education Development Strategy 2003-2015 to improve equitable access to, and quality of, basic education. Yemen became a GPE partner in 2003, and has since received several consecutive grants totaling $122.4 million.
The support contributed to increased access to primary schools, especially for girls, thanks to the construction of new classrooms and the rehabilitation of existing classrooms and school infrastructure in seven governorates.
To improve the enrollment and retention of primary school students, about 1,500 female teachers received training and contractual fees. Furthermore about 900,000 school materials kits were distributed to students in Grades 1 to 6.
Yemen has made great strides in improving girls' enrollment in basic education over the past decade, from 52% in 1999 to 92% in 2013. However the country still has work to do to achieve equitable access to education for girls.
The Government and GPE partners continue to work to increase girls' participation in school, blending innovative and traditional approaches:
- Constructing new schools in rural areas, and placing schools closer to girls' homes thanks to a school mapping exercise
- Launching girls' education campaigns through local media and traditional leaders
- Encouraging women teachers to work in rural areas by giving them adequate support
- Eliminating tuition fees to defray the costs of schooling for families
- Providing girls with clothes, notebooks, pens and bags to help them attend school with confidence
- Developing strategies to help young girls travel to school safely and monitor their participation.
In May 2013, Yemen received a GPE grant of $82.6 million which builds on the previous achievements. This grant continues to support improved, equitable access to education for girls and other education reform activities.
Raysa's story is courtesy of the World Bank.
Read the full article about the two World Bank education projects in Yemen.