Female primary students in Sanaa, August 1, 2015 (Getty)

Why Do Yemeni Girls Drop Out of School?


Sat, 16-12-2023 11:27 AM, Aden Time

“On average, women with secondary education earn twice as much as those with no education at all, while the gains from primary education are much smaller.”

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

The phenomenon of girls dropping out of school is a big challenge that communities face around the world, especially in low-income and poor countries. Globally, nine in ten girls complete their primary education, but only three in four complete their lower secondary education, according to a report issued by the World Bank in 2018.

The report also states that “in low-income countries, less than two thirds of girls complete their primary education, and only one in three completes lower secondary school”.

In Yemen, some factors and social traditions, including the early marriage of minor girls, especially in rural areas - supported by legal loopholes - ultimately fuels the spread of the drop out phenomenon. This deprives girls of their important natural rights and leads to the emergence of huge economic and social problems and imbalances. Additionally, this continuously widens the gap between males and females. 

Along with the marriage of minors, there are economic and social reasons too for girls dropping out of school in Yemen. In many cases, families say the financial costs are the reason behind this. They prefer allocating their scarce financial resources for the education of their sons. 

Girls in a school morning queue, Taiz, October 6, 2021 (Taiz Today)

The marriage of minors

In a sad example of the state of affairs, Fatma, just 14, is set to drop out of school next year. She is on the threshold of her second semester of the eighth grade in a primary school in Hadramout. The girl, who has demonstrated educational excellence, told ‘South24 Center’ that she will marry at the beginning of 2024.

She said: “We, as country girls, have no chance to complete our education even if we settle in the city. The lucky among us are the ones who can complete the primary 9th grade. The luckier girl is the one who can complete the secondary stage.”

The early marriage of Shifa, 16 years old, prevented her from going to high school. Shifa’s family isn’t opposed to her continuing her education, but they left the decision to their daughter and her husband. While her husband isn’t against her completing her education, Shifa believes that doing so would be difficult due to her new obligations. 
Girls inside a classroom in Hadramout, November 9, 2023 (South24 Center)

She told ’South24 Center‘: “It is impossible for a young girl who has several domestic and family duties to complete her education, especially in case she is pregnant.” However, Shifa doesn’t deny her desire to complete high school and probably even go to university.

As for Nour, who married at the age of 17, she expressed her great sorrow at what she described as “deception” that deprived her from completing her education. Nour said that she dropped out of school in her second year of the secondary stage in Taiz after her cousin proposed to her. Nour’s father gave his approval for the marriage on condition that her husband will allow her to complete her secondary stage. However, after marriage, her husband broke his promise. She found herself a victim of the social customs and traditions, especially since her husband is her cousin. Her father asked her to be patient and bear with the circumstances. While Nour has decided to be patient she intends to approach the courts for a divorce. 

Related: Underage Marriage in Yemen: Minors Inside Cages 

There is also the case of Rahmah who willfully left her education in Aden some years ago. 

Girls do their homework inside the class, Taiz, October 27, 2021 (Awan)

Rahmah told ’South24 Center: “I was on the threshold of secondary school when I got married at the age of 15. I left school of my own free will despite my family’s objection.” However, following her husband's insistence, Rahmah managed to complete her secondary education.

Her husband also encouraged her to attend a private university in his hometown, Al-Mukalla, in Hadramout, despite his low income. She graduated in 2019-2020 after four years of distance education.

Economic reasons 

In many cases, economic motives are behind Yemeni girls dropping out of school. This is also the reason behind many of the cases of early marriage. The deteriorating educational conditions in Yemen deepen people’s economic problems. The schools are few and overcrowded and are far away from residential areas.

Many Yemeni parents have to contend with hard economic conditions which force them to take their daughters out of school and marry them off, to get rid of their burdens. Some social customs and traditions also give low weightage to female education, and delineate their future tasks as limited to the domestic affairs of their marital homes. 

Girls in a morning queue at a school in Marib, August 18, 2021 (Almawqeapost)


Education provides girls the ability to strike a sound balance between the different roles they have to play in their lives. Depriving them of education leads to various repercussions on the girls, and thereby on the entire society.

Lawyer Hadeel Al-Sharabi believes that “depriving girls of education weakens their awareness about their basic rights and harms their status in society”. She told ’South24 Center’ “that when a minor marries and leaves school, she suffers a lot. A significant percentage of cases of divorce and family disintegration is a result of these destructive social practices”.

UNESCO in a 2023 report said that “many girls and women cannot exercise their right to education due to gender inequality and discriminatory practices. Poverty, early marriage, and gender-based violence are just some of the reasons behind the high percentage of out-of-school and illiterate girls and women globally.”

Community expert Salama Bint Al-Haj stresses that “female education plays an important role in enabling and preparing girls for the future”. She believes in the need for changing the traditional perspective regarding the issue within Yemeni society. She told ’South 24 Center‘: “We face endless issues due to depriving girls of education.”

Students in Aden’s Model Secondary School for Girls at the home economics room. March 3, 2023 (South24 Center)

She indicated that this phenomenon not only increases the rate of illiteracy, ignorance and unemployment but also weakens the economic infrastructure and individual productivity. It also leads to growing dependence and reliance on others besides leading to long-term dangerous and moral situations.

The World Bank report also discusses the consequences of dropping out at an early age and describes them as “severe”. The report estimates that the ”limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education costs countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings”.

The study adds: “This is because on average, women with secondary education earn twice as much as those with no education at all, while the gains from primary education are much smaller.”

Girls at a class in Hadramout, November 9, 2023 (South24 Center)

So far, there is no sign of hope that the situation will change in Yemen regarding the school dropout rate for girls. There are many social, legal and economic measures that need to be taken to enhance the girls’ right to education. 

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

YemenFemaleWomenGirlsSchoolsDrop outEducation