written By Fatimah BaFatim - Hadhramaut
Translated by: Tawfiq Al Mekhlafy
Zainab is a thirteen-year-old girl, from Wadi Al-Masani, Hadhramaut Governorate, eastern Yemen. Unlike her younger brothers who are continuing their education, Zainab has been deprived of completing her education since their family moved to live in rural area.
The infanticide of her dream happened, while she was still at primary school, in a rural area that sees it is enough for girls to complete fifth grade of education.
“Customs and traditions have forced us for girl to be housewife only.” With these words, Zainab’s mother began her talk, and continued: “I am not against girls’ education, but our rural society completely prevents girls from continuing their education beyond the fifth grade. These have been our customs since we were still young.”
Zainab’s mother continues saying: “In any case, every girl, whether she is educated or uneducated, will eventually get married, and there will be someone responsible for her and her desires. Man, on the other hand, it is the responsible for all these matters, and I see that his education must be a priority.”
A slightly brighter picture is given by Manal Bakili, headteacher of the Thala Ba’amar Girls School in the Rural Mukalla district in Hadhramaut. She reports that during the school year 2019-2020 a good number of rural families, especially Bedouin, who enrolled their daughters in the school, in contrast to her expectations! She adds: “Due to old traditions, customs and gender discrimination, women are deprived of many basic human rights, the most important of which is to continue their education; they do not have the right and freedom to educationally achieve themselves.”
According to the Head of the Girls’ Education Department in the Rural Mukalla district, Ms. Mona bin Aidan, the district has witnessed an increasing trend in enrolment of girls in school. For example, number of girls who enrolled in school in 2012 was 653. Then, the number kept rising to 717, 719 and 940 in the school years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2017-18, respectively. So, we can see a difference with more district’s girls joining education.
Turning to Zainab’s father, he says: “The rural customs that we have known prevent girl from continuing her education after the fifth grade, because in the end she a housewife and continuing education for her is of no value. When she is under protection and care of her husband, we say education will not mean something important to her.”
Her father believes that her status will follow that of her mother; her assistance and support [needed] by her mother and brothers are an urgent necessity [the require her] to be present at home, not in school. He sees that his community strives to educate boys more than to educate girls, since boy is the primary sponsor of his family in the future, and to secure an honourable job for him will be by continuing his education beyond high school.
DIFFICULTIES AND SOLUTIONS
School social worker Ms. Nahid Ahmed gives her explanation, too. She explains that girls discontinue education to engage in household responsibilities and duties following her marriage and because of customs and traditions as well as problems resulting from coeducational classes in rural areas.
Ms. Nahid stresses that the most important barriers to the education of rural girls are the [long] distance to school, especially that rural population [in Yemen] is widely scattered, and lack of awareness among parents to support their girls’ education; they prefer that girls do housework and herd sheep rather than go to school.
Other barriers are poor awareness of the girl herself about [consequence] of not being educated. Once she has completed courses to memorise the Holy Qur’an, she thinks [it is enough] that she can read and write now; fathers’ lack of awareness about the importance of educating their daughters on the grounds that they do not have an [economic] prospect like boys [completing tertiary education] as they will get married at young age; and refusal of female teachers to leave the city and go to teach in the countryside.
Ms. Nahid reaffirms importance of raising awareness about the importance of women's education, including religious awareness, and building educational systems and customs in our country on the basis of Islam, which takes into account the principles and values of society and its customs, such as not mixing [boys and girls] in education. She also points to importance of adopting standard values and morals in universities and their different facilities in different areas like gardens, yards and libraries, and of the necessity to learn from global educational systems.
AWARENESS AND EDUCATION
The director of Salamtak FM radio station, Salah Al-Ammari, has his input about the issue. “Educating rural girls faces great difficulties that are usually caused by customs and traditions in most rural areas,” he comments.
He adds: “We, as Salamatak Radio, have contributed, and continue to do so, to spreading awareness and education by broadcasting shows such as the ‘Kama Yajeb’ (As It Should Be) that is broadcast every Wednesday by Ms. Arwa Abboud. It’s about girl and the importance of her educations.”
“There is another show called ‘Aqqallaha Nahki’ (At Least We Talk). It is prepared by Ms. Mona Al-Attas and broadcast by Mr. Alaa Mithqal. The show deals with girls’ education and its continuation, in addition; to reasons behind school dropouts,” Mr. Al-Ammari said.
He concludes by highlighting how FM radio is keen to have its educational shows prepared and broadcast by women.