Being a student in Yemen is extremely challenging. The tense political situation did not change much between 2016 and 2017. However, there has been an escalation of violence against students holding liberal views and adhering to secularist movements. The beginning of 2017 also came with restrictions regarding the mobility of international students. Overall, the country struggles with student retention as the lack of infrastructure and government control push many to seek affiliation with extremist organisations.
Yemen is currently ravaged by a bloody civil war started in 2015 and which doesn’t show signs of coming to an end. That impacts the life of civilians and seriously disrupts the educational process. 2017 brought unprecedented attacks on secularist organisations, including the killing of a 22-year-old law student in the Aden. The situation has become so tense that many students fear to travel for attending classes. The situation is likely to go on, as the opposing sides in the conflict reached a stalemate in the last couple of months. The war going on in Yemen destroyed the country’s water infrastructure and led to the worst outbreak of cholera recorded in recent history (200,000 affected).
Yemeni students enrolled in the United States were dealt a major blow after a Donald Trump issued a temporary travel ban in January 2017 meant to stop the global flow of potential terrorists. However, the modified version now allows the right to enter the US for students that could certify their affiliation with a higher education institution. It is estimated that around 300-400 students leave the country each year in seek of better opportunities for earning a degree.
Education in Yemen lacks the needed infrastructure, mostly because most of the schools had to close due to damage or dislocated population. It is estimated that a third of the Yemeni enrolled could not continue their education because of the war. Schools and universities also lack the funding needed to operate and most of the classes take place through voluntary work and in improvised conditions.
It is estimated that almost a half of Yemeni university students dropped out along the two years of conflict. With no signs of peace for the near future, the situation is set to go even worse.
Despite the precarious situations, Yemen still continues to attract foreign students in 2017. Most of them come to the country to study Islam because the country has a tradition of offering such programs. Indonesia alone has 1,800 foreign students in Yemen, and other Muslim countries are said to have similar numbers.
Although Islam schools like the ones of Zabed, Tarem, Sa’ada, Jebala, and Taiz preach a moderate version of the religion, the risk of radicalisation is very high. The Yemeni Government is currently unable to track the influx of students, or whether dropouts chose to enlist with the Islamic State or other extremist factions controlling various regions throughout the country.