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Projects >  Yemen

Proposed Girls’ Secondary Education Project, Republic of Yemen

In June 2007, I went to Yemen to start the preparation of the construction component of the proposed World Bank Girls’ Secondary Education Project.  This was the first of two missions and I went back to Yemen in July of the same year.

The Republic of Yemen is a tropical country situated at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula between latitudes 12.5º and 17.5º north and has three climatic zones: the hot, humid coastal zone; the hot and dry desert zone and the cooler mountainous zone.  Any school buildings must therefore be designed to cope with the different climates and be comfortable for teaching and learning in these three zones.

Yemen has limited natural resources, belongs to the group of least developed nations and with a per capita GNI then of US$510 was and is one of the poorest nations in the world.  The country had at that time a high (3%) rate of population growth and exceptionally weak health indicators.

At the time of the missions, the secondary education system had some strong characteristics such as open access for basic school graduates and gross enrolment at or above average for low-income countries but the urban/rural disparities were severe and the gender gap was extreme.  In 2004/2005 the GER in urban areas for boys was 71.2% but that for girls was only 55.0% and in the rural areas the GER for boys was 45.6% and only 13.7% for girls.

All this of course was before the current devastating civil war started and the present situation with regard to the general population and both health and education must be disastrous.

The Project

The then government’s strategy for secondary education was to address the need to increase access for girls and to develop more diverse, relevant and cost-effective curriculum options.

The project was to address three key issues then facing the secondary education sector:

  • Low access, retention and completion rates for all students in secondary education, especially those of girls in rural areas;

  • Inadequate quality and relevance of education;

  • Weak management and governance of schools. 


The project proposals assumed that improved and more relevant secondary education provided to a larger number of students, especially girls in rural areas, would contribute to social and economic development and thus to poverty reduction (42% of the population – 19.2 million in 2004 – were then living in poverty, with a higher concentration in rural areas).

The development objectives of the project were to ‘reduce the gender gap in secondary education while laying the basis for related improvements in the quality, relevance and efficiency of secondary schooling’.

Mission Objectives and Achievements

The objectives of my missions were to assess the then current state of secondary school mapping and the planning of physical inputs to enhance girls’ enrolment in secondary schools; to review the existing designs for secondary school facilities; to provide the Ministry of Education with recommendations on the interventions that I considered were required to further enhance girls’ enrolment and to assist with the preparation of the construction component of the proposed project.

At the end of my first mission I prepared a preliminary report that contained a review of the existing secondary school designs; made preliminary recommendations for the design and construction of secondary schools and made preliminary proposals for standards for teaching facilities to be provided at new and renovated secondary schools.  The report also provided guidelines for the selection of schools to be included in the proposed project, suggested strategies for maximising the use of school facilities and discussed the possible construction costs of the proposed secondary schools.

For details see the attached Preliminary Report, June 2007.

I went back to Yemen in July 2007 and after the mission prepared a final report setting out my findings and proposals in detail.  The report covered the background to the project in terms of the climate and geography of the country; school mapping with reference to the provision of secondary school facilities; the existing situation with regard to secondary schools in terms of their numbers and sizes; recommendations for the design and construction of secondary schools; strategies for maximising the use of school facilities; proposals for the facilities to be provided at urban and rural secondary schools; proposals for the implementation of school construction programmes in general and the proposed Girls’ Education Project in particular and proposals for the maintenance of schools and school facilities.  Preliminary designs for the proposed secondary school classrooms and other facilities were also included.

For details see the attached Final Report, August 2007.

Unfortunately, I do not know to what extent, if any, the project was implemented and given the civil war still raging in the country, any benefits it might have given will no doubt have been lost.  The final report’s recommendations would still however be relevant and useful when and if the civil war stops and some degree of normality returns to the country.


The old fortified city of Sanaʽa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years making it one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world.  At an elevation of 2,300 metres it is also one of the highest capital cities in the world.  It contains many intact architectural gems including the Ghumdan Palace, the Samsarh and the Great Mosque, reputed to be more than 1,400 years old.  The city is surrounded by ancient clay walls that stand 9–14 metres high and contains more than 100 mosques, 12 hammans and 6,500 houses many of which resemble ancient skyscrapers built of mud bricks and topped with flat roofs. They are decorated with elaborate friezes and intricately carved frames and stained-glass windows.

During my two missions to Yemen, I stayed in a small hotel in Sana’a just outside the old city and spent most of my time when not working (which admittedly was not much!), exploring the old city and a selection of photos that I took during my explorations are shown in the gallery below.

Photo Gallery

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