In Abyan, Village Cooperative Council brings education to boys and girls
Arshan, a village with 171 households located at the Khanfir District in Abyan, faces chronic poverty and severe lack of proper education facilities due to its inaccessibility. Since there is no proper education facility established in the village, school-aged children in Arshan need to go to Al-Hisn area (approximately 3 km away) on foot in order to receive primary or secondary school education. In summer time, temperature in Arshan can reach 40°C and compounded with no guaranteed safe passage along the route, it is not uncommon that female students dropped out from school and school-aged children delayed their enrollment.
- 6-10 yrs old children used to walk 3 km to reach their school under temperature of 40°C
- 4 straw hut classrooms being established, accredited as extension of the main school
- 27 boys and 35 girls were recently enrolled in the first class.
Since August, 2016, the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) Programme, funded by the European Union (EU), worked through the AT Tamkeen Program for local development of Social Fund for Development (SFD) to establish the Village Cooperative Councils (VCCs) villages located in Khanfir District, including Arshan. The VCC established in Arshan has prepared and implemented the Community Resilience Plan and community self-help initiative. In response to the lack of proper and safe education facilities in the village, elected members of VCC have taken the construction of classrooms for school-aged children in the village as a prioritised self-help initiative.
Abboud, one of the elected VCC members, described the initiative as ‘difficult and heavily burdened’. He further added, “It was not easy to get an officially accredited school and equipment required. The whole process was like ‘crossing the desert at noon’; however, none of these obstacles had even swayed our determination and passion to provide a safe learning environment to our children.” When Abboud was being asked about the changes he witnessed before and after VCC was formed, he recalled that “before VCC was formed, unfortunately, our village was full of frustration and anxiety, as we did not see any hope or improvement for the future. Once elected, all VCC members (three male and three female) including myself, knew clearly that we have to build our image with the greatest effort as an elected body which brings positive changes to our village and we are here to serve our fellow villagers. More importantly, we have to be proactive and ambitious on those self-help initiatives which ensure the well-being of everyone in our village.”
As the joint effort of Arshan VCC and community members, the village now has four straw hut classrooms being accredited by authorities and considered as the extension of the school in Al-Hisn with three volunteers female teachers. The Education Department in Khanfir District has provided the school textbooks and promised to provide an extra five teachers, while a deputy principal was appointed for the daily operation of the education facility constructed.
Kulaib, father of a 7 years old girl in Arshan, shared his view that “these four straw hut classrooms, I believe, is the first step to improve the livelihood in our village. Now, we have a school close by and we, as the parent, do not have to worry about the safety of our kids going to school anymore. I am looking forward seeing my young daughter going to school!”
In this semester, there are 27 boys and 35 girls newly enrolled at the first grade. The opening of school in Arshan clearly showcased the functions, efforts and impacts of an elected VCC and its self-help initiative. It reflected how community resilience and community resilience can be enhanced through community dialogue, liaison with authorities and mobilisation of resources to the community. Saleh, the appointed deputy principal also shared his excitement on the newly constructed schools, “Now, in Arshan, education is accessible to all school-aged boys and girls. It is particularly important for girls, as they no longer delay their enrolment at school due to distance to school. I truly appreciate the work initiated by VCC, they tried their very best to get teachers and equipment required for a functioning school.” The opening of school did not mark the end of VCC effort to improve education in Arshan, they have been in contact with various civil society actors to seek additional support, for examples, provision of school supplies and further expansion of the school.
The Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen Programme (ERRY) is a three-year joint programme funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP, FAO, ILO and WFP, to enhance the resilience and self-reliance of crisis-affected rural communities in four governorates of Yemen. Under Local Governance component, several attempts have been made to bring communities from war-inflicted state of stagnation, negativism back to dynamism and self-reliance. Basis for community-based governance structures has been laid down, through establishment and empowerment of Village Cooperative Councils (VCCs). Such VCCs have already started mobilizing communities to work together and plan for resilience in a participatory manner.