A Short Film On The Yemeni Students Stuck In Lebanon

Sama'a Al-Hamdani

Originally published on the Middle East Eye on Thursday 1 October 2015 

BEIRUT - In Yemen, only a certain section of the population has traditionally been privileged to receive a full education. Female literacy rates never surpassed 50.16 percent. Since the conflict began, however, even these modest achievements are being eroded. 

Since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen in March, many primary and secondary schools have had to shut their doors. Even before this, things were growing increasingly challenging for Yemeni students. Since the Arab Spring-inspired protests broke out, militias have increasingly taken over educational facilities as they have tried to expand their influence over Yemen’s towns and cities. This trend only intensified after the war began. 

In order to allow its best and brightest to continue their studies, the Ministry of Vocational Training decided to give scholarships to 87 of the country’s best students to study in Lebanon. 

However, once they got there, the money never came and the students were forced to try and finance themselves. While some persevered, others dropped out and did not complete their year and have since gone back to Yemen. The situation that awaits them is mixed. 

While, the Ministry of Education was able to host end of year exams in late August, many students complain that their studies have taken a back seat.  “Focusing on the exam was a struggle since my mind was constantly preoccupied with the war and whether we will live to see another day,” Iman al-Bashiri a Yemeni medical student told MEE. 

“The location of the university was dangerous - near the First Armoured Brigade. Even if I survived, I worried about the safety of my family back home. It was hard to study in a quiet environment since the atmosphere was tense and the sounds of explosions and planes [were everywhere.]  “It was burdensome not having electricity since it came sporadically and all we could do is pray that we will have better electricity the next day. Transportation to and from the university was hard - Firstly due to safety and second due to the scarcity of gas,” he added. 

But Bashir is one of the lucky ones. Many students have been displaced by the fighting and have not been able to go to school or university at all. Leaving the country to continue ones studies can be extremely difficult - only a handful of countries allow Yemeni citizens visa-free travel and few have been willing to grant them student visas. 

The new school year is now set to commence on 9 October but it is unclear whether those who were unable to take their exams will be permitted to start with everyone else. While some schools in the south have been repaired and should become operational again, many in the north continue to face difficulties.