As many as two million children are out of school in war-torn Yemen, while the education of another 3.7 million children faces uncertainty in the wake of prolonged violence and non-payment of salaries of teachers for more than two years, United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said in a statement.
The UN agency said that of the two million children, a quarter of them has been dropped out since the escalation of civil war more than four years ago.
The situation in Yemen is going from bad to worse with Houthis militia assuming control of the capital city Sanaa and spreading its battlegrounds across the country.
"Conflict, underdevelopment and poverty have deprived millions of children in Yemen of their right to education – and of their hope for a brighter future. Violence, displacement and attacks on schools are preventing many children from accessing school," said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Unicef Representative in Yemen. "With teacher salaries going unpaid for over two years, education quality is also at stake."
The current conflict in Yemen spiralled more than four years ago and has devastated the country's already fragile education system. One in five schools in Yemen can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict.
"Thirty years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified, it is unacceptable that education and other fundamental child rights are out of reach for children in Yemen all because of man-made factors," said Nyanti.
When children are not in school, they face countless risks of exploitation, abuse and other rights violations. "They lose the opportunity to develop and grow in a caring and stimulating environment, ultimately becoming trapped in a life of poverty and hardship," added Nyanti.
In fact, Houthi militia, which has the backing of Iran, has killed more than 14,000 Yemeni civilians in the last four years since its coup against the war-torn country's legitimate government, a human rights watchdog said last week.
Unicef, in cooperation with its partners, is working round-the-clock so that children can realise their right to education. In the last school year, the UN agency paid incentives to over 127,400 teachers and school-based staff who had not been paid in over two years to help them cover their transportation to school and other basic expenses.
The UN agency said that urgent efforts must be made to prevent an entire generation of children in Yemen from missing out on their education.
Calling on different agencies to find an immediate solution to the problem, Unicef has also urged to stop attacks on education facilities to protect children and teachers. These attacks are a grave violation against children and breach International Humanitarian Law. Schools must be protected as safe zones for learning. Besides, the UN agency said, education authorities across Yemen should work together and find an immediate solution to provide salaries for all teachers and education personnel so that children can continue to learn.
The international community, donors and development partners should support incentives for teachers, while the authorities need to find a long-term solution for salary crisis.