“We Have a Dream to Go Back to School”: Thousands of Children in Yemen
The walls are crumbling, the windows shattered, and the boys sit three to a desk. But by being enrolled in classes at all, the pupils are among the luckiest children in war-torn Yemen.
In the capital Sanaa, students in olive green uniforms lined up for a morning salute at the Al-Wahda boys’ school.
“Onwards!” nearly 70 pupils chanted in unison, reaching forward to form a human chain.
But 15-year-old Alaa Yasser was not among them. Instead, he was working at a nearby car shop to support his family.
“I had to stop going to school to work with my father to help him earn a living,” said Yasser, whose family fled the southwestern city of Taiz.
Two million children across the country have no access to education, according to the UN children’s agency (UNICEF), three years into a war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and shows no sign of waning.
Hisham al-Saka, 12, also dropped out to help support his mother and sister after his father’s death in 2015.
“I wish I could go to school,” Saka said.
“But my mother cannot afford to pay for school supplies… she can’t even afford to get me and my siblings the uniforms.”
Yemen’s war prompted the already weak economy to collapse and, coupled with a blockade of its ports and airport, people are struggling to survive as prices
More than 22 million people — three-quarters of the population — are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.
UNICEF estimates 4.5 million children risk losing access to state schools in Yemen, as teachers have not been paid in nearly two years.
More than 2,500 school have been damaged or destroyed, while some are now used as shelters for displaced people or as camps run by armed groups.
Christophe Boulierac, a UNICEF spokesman, said many teachers “have looked for other work to survive or are only teaching a few subjects. So, obviously, the quality of education is at stake.”
“Even if they study Yemeni children are not getting their full lessons due to the absence of their teachers.”