Wednesday, September 22, 2021

international

Yemeni school children begin new semester in "rubble school"


On every school day, students need to climb through holes on broken walls and shaking staircases to reach their classroom, which is no better than a cave.

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 For six years in a row, school children at the Shuhada-Alwahdah school in Ibb province, west Yemen, have to start their semesters inside a "rubble school."

The only building of the Shuhada school was hit during an airstrike in 2015. Half of the building collapsed to the ground, with the other half tilting, stubbornly fighting against gravity.

Six years later, nothing changed. The building remained almost the same, maybe tattier, as the day it was bombed.

On every school day, students need to climb through holes on broken walls and shaking staircases to reach their classroom, which is no better than a cave.

There are no windows, doors, chairs, or desks. Students have to cram together and squat on the concrete ground as the class goes.

But they still consider themselves the lucky ones. Over 2 million school-age girls and boys are now out of school as poverty, conflict and lack of opportunities disrupt their education, according to a recent report issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

A child is standing in front of a half-collapsed teaching building at Shuhada-Alwahdah school in Al-Radhmah district in Ibb province, about 190 km south of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, Yemen, on Aug. 14, 2021.

Amjad al-Riashi, 13, is one of the students at the Shuhada school. He said his love for school and education has not been abated by rubble and the slanted roof.

"Devastating our school did not stop my love for education but made me determined to study hard," al-Riashi said, adding many of his classmates shared his opinion.

"Education, for us, is a privilege. We should make the best of it," the teenager said.

Arif al-Shami, the school principal, said there was no military presence inside the school when it was bombed. Over the years, thousands of schools have been destroyed and abandoned as the civil war continues with no end in sight.

School children enter a half-collapsed teaching building at Shuhada-Alwahdah school in Al-Radhmah district in Ibb province, about 190 km south of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, Yemen, on Aug. 14, 2021.

Shami said he tried to find funds for the past six years to rebuild the school but to no avail. What's worse, the school is already struggling to find enough money for daily costs, such as textbooks, electricity, and even the teachers' salaries.

The principal said the teachers have not received their salaries in years, and many of them have been forced to quit to find other jobs that can keep their families afloat.

"We beseech humanitarian organizations to help us renovate the school, rebuild the building and provide the students with school textbooks," Shami said, adding the school cannot run for long if no help comes.

Also in the UNICEF report, the UN agency said two thirds of teachers in Yemen have not received regular salaries in more than four years, which "puts around 4 million additional children at risk of disrupted education or dropping out as unpaid teachers quit teaching to find another financial source for providing their families."

Yahya al-Hujaily is one of the few teachers who are still giving classes for the students daily. He said he stuck to his job only because he still believed education is the most important social responsibility.

"Despite the protracted war, despite whatever happened to educational facilities and the suspension of our salaries, we will not stop teaching our children even if it has to be done under trees or inside rubble. Because education is essential for life," Hujaily said, standing in front of rustic rebars jutting out from cement blocks. 

School children sit on the ground inside a half-collapsed teaching building at Alwahdah school in Al-Radhmah district in Ibb province, about 190 km south of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, Yemen, on Aug. 14, 2021.

Published : August 28, 2021