In 2017, female students’ success rate on the high-school exit exam was about 66 percent in the scientific branch and 80 percent in the arts branch. Still, fewer than 8 percent of the women who passed the exam enrolled in university, according to the Ministry of Education.
“Unfortunately, the ongoing war and the deteriorating security situation forced a high percentage of female students not to attend university despite their excellence,” said Halima Jahaf, director of the Gender Center at Sana’a University. She pointed out that security issues in some governorates, including abductions, assassinations and attacks on education by forces on both sides of the conflict, discourage families from sending their daughters to schools or universities. Instead, they prefer to have their daughters marry young, in part to protect them.
Yemen, like many Arab countries, suffers from gender inequality in education. As the educational level goes up, the number of female students decreases.
In 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, 86 percent of Yemeni girls enrolled in primary education, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Unesco. At the secondary level, however, only 43 percent enrolled in school. Those figures compare to a nearly 99 percent enrollment rate for boys in primary schools and a 59 percent enrollment rate at the secondary level.
There is no updated statistic for the university level, but experts say participation levels for both sexes drop sharply, to around 15 percent for men and no more than 7 percent for women.
The low female participation rates in education are due in part to the small number of girls’ schools in the countryside, the economic circumstances of families, and social customs. Traditionally, the preference of Yemeni parents is for boys to go to school and for girls to get married at a young age. (See a related article, “Yemeni Women’s Uphill Struggle for Education.”)
A Priority on Educating Men
For some young women, attending a university is not an option, regardless of their success in high school. Hanaa Fouad, for example, was not allowed to attend a university because of the distance between the campus and her village. “The road is not safe, and the university is far away,” she said. “So my father decided not to send me to university and that my high school is enough.”
For others, family pressures may cut their education short. Wafa Mohammed, a former student at Taiz University’s Faculty of Commerce, was forced to drop out after her husband renounced his pledge to allow her to complete her university education—a condition her family had imposed as part of the marriage agreement. “All my parents’ attempts to convince him to reverse his decision failed,” she said. “Thus, I was asked to choose between university and divorce. Of course my family chose to save my marriage over my education.”
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