Out of school or in danger, the drama of school children in Yemen at war

Taez (Yemen) (AFP) – At the start of the school year in Yemen, Midian Aoud will be absent from the banks, forced to wash cars to meet the needs of his poor family in a country scarred by eight years of war .

“My friends are studying and I am not. I dropped out of school to help my parents and support my family,” the 12-year-old boy, who was wearing a torn T-shirt, told AFP in the southern city of Taiz.

The school year started in early August in most schools in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, long before the war between rebels and power, which the UN says caused one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world, with the risk of widespread famine.

After finishing his job in the car wash, little Midian will lend a hand to his shoemaker father, Adnane Aoud.

Like many Yemeni fathers, Adnane Aoud’s decision to drop his son from school was difficult but inevitable due to the meager income.

“To study you need books, notebooks and pens. I wanted to take care of my children and take them to school, but I couldn’t,” Adnane Aoud, 50, told AFP. “We are in total misery. »

He too could not afford to study.

“My children and I are illiterate. I wanted my son to do better than me, but he will also become a shoemaker. This is not life! »

In Taiz, more than 500,000 students have returned to their classrooms despite the dangers. The city is in power, but is besieged by Houthi rebels who block the main roads.

The chair “impedes the movement of students and the arrival of supplies,” assures AFP Abdelwassie Chadad, a local education official.

Despite the ceasefire in effect, schoolchildren are also at risk of being shot by snipers. Earth barriers are sometimes erected to protect them on the way to school.

For Ichraq Yahia, a teacher at a girls’ school in Taiz, the truce is “a huge failure” as the siege and sporadic sniper fire have not stopped.

“Students are targeted on their way to school. Some were hit while on the school bus,” she told AFP.

Surrounded by mountains, Taiz is one of the cities hardest hit by the war that started in 2014 and left hundreds of thousands dead, according to the UN.

Since April 2, a truce signed by the UN has generally been respected, giving the population some peace of mind.

Elsewhere in Yemen, the school year was just as difficult.

In the western province of Hodeida, where regions are controlled by the rebels, classes are held on the ruins of schools and students are at risk from mines.

Some even sleep next to their destroyed school. Others go there barefoot on the muddy ground, with their books in plastic bags.

In Sanaa, the Yemeni capital that is also in Houthis hands, schools have opened their doors to thousands of students who return to class without worry thanks to the ceasefire.

“The conflict and frequent interruptions of education (…) have a profound impact on learning as well as intellectual and emotional development,” according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The war and the “education crisis” are impacting the mental health of 10.6 million children, the organization adds, evaluating “more than two million” those out of school, “an increase of nearly half a million. since 2015.

According to UNICEF, one in four schools has become unusable, not to mention the security risks, teacher shortages and the deterioration of infrastructure pushing people out of school.

Before going to school, Malak Fayçal says “goodbye” to his mother every day in case she doesn’t see her again.

“We are in danger by going to school. The Houthi missiles and snipers that were not far from the house spared no one. »

© AFP

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