The Future of the Education Sector in Socotra: Challenges and Hopes


Mon, 20-12-2021 11:26 PM, Aden

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

For many decades, Socotra Archipelago, located in the Southern Coast of the Arab Peninsula off the city of Mukalla in the Gulf of Aden, remained isolated due to its geographic distance accompanied by the lack of many services, top of which was the education sector. 

The Archipelago consists of Socotra as its main island along with 5 others including Darsah, Samhah,Abd al Kuri, Sayal Abd al Kuri and Sayal Socotra. Moreover, it consists of 7 rocky islands including Sira, Radad, Adla, Karshah, Siher, Zaen Zatl and Jales. 

 Socotra is considered the biggest Arab island, with 125 km long, and 42 km wide, while the length of its coastal strip is 300 km. Hadibu is the capital city of the island. (1)

Until 2013, Socotra was administratively subordinate to the Hadramout Governorate before Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi declared it an independent governorate. 

In this report, “South24:” explores the conditions of education in the Archipelago which has witnessed big political and military tussles over the past years.

University education

Academics and officials complained about the nature of the difficulties against education in Socotra. They urged the formal and relevant authorities to give this sector its required support. They have praised the role played by the Coalition’s countries for backing the sector in the governorate. 

Essam Ali, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Community told South24: “Like the Faculty of Education, our faculty is still without its own building as Its current headquarters is a rented one amid its weak operational budget”.

He indicated that university education in Socotra “needs serious care and interest from the authorities and government”, adding that the conditions of the education have been deteriorated for a long time and have not made improvement. 

For his part, Dr Nadim Badous, the Dean of the Faculty of Community in Socotra believes that “the Island needs real support” He told South24 that “the governmental budget is not enough to run the educational academic process in the Archipelago”.

Adnan Amer, a Staff Member of the Faculty of Community3 agrees with his colleagues that Socotra needs exceptional support. Since the establishment of the Faculty of Education, affiliated with Hadhramout University in Socotra in 2000, it has had no independent headquarters. Moreover, Socotra Governorate does not have its own public university. 

Last June, President of Hadhramout University, Dr. Muhammad Saeed Khanbash, issued an urgent appeal for saving the Faculty of Community in Socotra which faced the ghost of closing its doors. 

Last January, the President of Hadhramout University said that “The Faculty of Education faces the risk of closure during the new year due to its inability to pay the big amount of money demanded by the building's owner”. 

Abdulaziz Al-Seyoufi, Professor in the Accounting Department, told “South24” that “the Faculty was about to close its doors if there had been no appeal from the President of Hadhramout University”.

In a press statement last year, Khanbash said that “he intended to inaugurate the new headquarters of the Faculty of Education in Socotra, and open the new Department of Accounting and Mathematics”(which has been added this year)”. 

He added that “the University’s annual plan for the coming year seeks to add Master's degree to the Faculty of Education” in order to spare the governorate citizens the suffering of studying outside Socotra.

In that regard, Raafat Al-Thaqali, Head of Socotra Local Authority, said that “there is a tangible activity made by Hadramout University, as its 4 departments, inaugurated 20 years ago, haven’t kept with labour market requirements and education outcomes, and the governorate currently needs other scientific majors. The Archipelago currently is able to partially meet those needs”. 

The Faculty of Community in Socotra, affiliated with the Ministry of Higher and Vocational Education, witnessed opening new majors.

The Dean of the Faculty of Community told South24: “5 years ago, the conditions of Education were different”, pointing out that the number of students in schools and universities has decreased over the past years especially among girls. 

Dr Nadim Badous added that “majors such as Accounting and Administration have encouraged students to continue their university education, and reduced time and money drained on their trips to Hadramawt and Aden”.

He pointed out that the support of Arab Coalition’s States have helped the wheel of Education to continue operating, stressing that “without this support, the faculties in The Archipelago would have stopped”

Hard conditions

Abdulaziz Al-Seyoufi added that “There is a lack in the educational cadres due to the lack of the financial incentives. Therefore, some teachers resorted to other work to improve their income”. 

The high costs of transport and petroleum products constitute one of the top obstacles against Socotra students.

 Al-Seyoufi believes that the conditions of Socotra students’ families are worsening because of “inflation, currency deterioration and the low salaries” adding that some families find themselves forced not to send their sons to schools due to the high living costs”. 

Dr Adnan Amer agreed with Al-Seyoufi in such a view adding that “conditions are hard in general amid the lack of job opportunities in the Island”.

Through “South24”, Al-Seyoufi sent a message to Socotra asking them not to feel desperate, and to complete their university degree”, stressing that “this stage is important and their way to renaissance and development”.

As for education scholarships abroad, Al-Thaqali told “South24” that “Khalifa Foundation annually provides scholarships for Socotra students in different majors in Arab countries such as Egypt and UAE, so as to return with better experience that serves the university and enhances its activity”.

The impact of the conflict 

The conflict on Socotra, in Mid-2020, between the STC and the Islamist “Islah” Party which was ruling the Island cast a shadow on the academics there before the STC’S full control over it on June 21st of the same year.

In this regard, Al-Thaqali, STC’S President in Socotra, told South24 that “There were human rights violations against the political activists and academics in Socotra, as many of them were arrested”. 

 Al-Thaqali pointed out that the former Socotra Authority, led by Governor Ramzi Mahrous issued at the time a list of detainees which included over 70 activists and academics.

In response, Al-Thaqali said the STC leaders made direct moves to deal with such abuses and violations in order to reduce them”. 

He added that the STC “ maintained the continuity of the educational process and kept it away from political tussles after taking control of the island”.

Parties in the Yemeni Government accused the STC of receiving support from the UAE to hold its grip on the Archipelago.

Basic education

As part of its support for the education sector, the UAE, through the Khalifa Foundation for Humanitarian Works signed job contracts with university graduates to partially fill the gap in basic and secondary schools in the Archipelago, according to Raafat Al-Thaqali.

Mr Ahmed Ibrahim, Director General of the Office of the Ministry of Education in Socotra Governorate tol “South 24” that the “average rate of students in each division is up to 60”.

students in a school in Socotra (South24, activists)

“In spite of the interference of the Arab Coalition’s countries in the education sector, the need for school buildings especially at the level of the capital remains very high”. He elaborated. 

A school for basic and secondary education in Socotra that was built with Emirati support (South24, activists)

Ibrahim added that “ The Khalifa Foundation supports the teachers currently by 350 AED for each”, pointing out that this “can’t cover all needs”. However, he said: “We thank the Khalifa Foundation. It is enough for us that it has been present while others have been absent”.

He indicated that the Foundation sponsored the support of 400 teachers while a Kuwaiti charity organisation sponsored 100 others”.

“However, we still have a problem regarding the entitlements of employees as the Education Department suffers from being unable to meet their dues. The teachers have not received their dues for more than 3 months” according to the STC’s President in the Archipelago.

The Coalition’s support 

Al-Thaqali made clear that Saudi Arabia provided 10 school buses for students coming from remote areas, and sponsored building 4 Model Schools in the Archipelago, as well as promising to build a headquarters of “Socotra Faculty” which will include many departments, as well as providing scholarships inside the Kingdom in different majors”.

In November, The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen announced the inauguration of 4 Model Schools in the Island, adding that “ they accommodates 5170 male and female students”. (2)

In light of renovating the old schools and others affected by hurricanes, Al-Thaqali said: “The UAE restored more than 30 schools in Socotra, and sponsored subsidies for oil products and the bus drivers’ fees”. 

Al-Thaqali hailed Khalifa Foundation’s support for the Basic Education Sector, adding that “the Foundation has supported Basic Schools 3 yars ago, and this has yielded excellent outcomes”. 

The UAE, through Khalifa Foundation, has contributed in Sending a number of Socotra students abroad according to Nadim Badous despite the low population density in the Archipelago, pointing out that the previous grants provided by the Ministry of Education “were not sufficient”.

STC’S President in Socotra indicated that Khalifa Foundation “established two institutes for Computer Sciences in the Districts of Qalansiyah and Hadibo”, adding that this has made much impact on Youth's involvement in education. 

Adnan Amer said that Khalifa Foundation “sponsored the entitlements of teachers in the Faculty of Community which is estimated by 2 million Yemeni Riyals”, pointing out that it “delivered teaching tools or classrooms and computer laboratories”.

In June, the UAE established Socotra Archipelago University, which is the first private university in the island, with the support of Khalifa Foundation and which includes Business Administration, Financial Accounting and Information Technology Majors. 

University of Socotra Archipelago, which was established with Emirati support (South24, activists)

Amer stressed that “This University has played a big role in improving the university education in Socotra”.

Despite the University being recently established, Dr. Essam Ali said that its majors are parallel to those available in the Faculty of Community in Socotra. 


On the STC’s support of education, the Dean of the Faculty of Community in Socotra said that “the Council played an important role in encouraging education in Socotra, and does not hesitate in providing services, especially regarding this sector”.

On the other hand, Ahmed Ibrahim, Director General of the Office of the Ministry of Education in Socotra told South24 that “the STC has not delivered any support for education”. He added: “we are looking forward to seeing STC’S contribution in backing the educational process with other donors, as the needs of this sector is very gross”. 

In contrast, Al-Thaqali said that “the STC made a lot of efforts in overcoming difficulties with regard to communication with donors, especially the Khalifa Foundation to provide support for various sectors, mainly the education”. 

He Pointed out that the Council supported some remote areas with oil derivatives, and adopted supporting top students in many schools with incentive prizes, adding that they have been in constant contact with the school administrations to closely monitor education. 

Government’s support

Ahmed Ibrahim criticised the role of the official government in supporting the education sector within the governorate. He told South 24 that “The government has not provided anything to the educational sector in Socotra, neither at the technical level in terms of training teachers, educational administrators, and school principals, nor at the level of school buildings”.

The only exception according to him is what he dubbed as “worthless low salaries” paid regularly by the government.

 Al-Thaqali stressed that the government’s support for education in Socotra “is completely absent in such circumstances” pointing out that the “operational budget of the Department of Education in the governorate is “almost non-existent.” 

He urged the supporting entities and organisations to keep their backing efforts, asking the “Ministry of Education” to open space for Socotra students to resume their university and postgraduate stages through facilitating providing internal and external scholarships, and taking care of scientific majors. 

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studie

- Photo: Girls in a school built with Emirati support (South24, activists)

Southe YemenSocotra IslandSouthern Transitional CouncilYemeni governmentIslah partyArab coalition