The children of today’s Yemen have never known peace. Since the modern republic of Yemen was formed in 1990, the infant country has been caught between neighboring superpowers, internal corruption, and competing interests within. For the last four years, that struggle has been a violent one. And the impact on the country’s children, as in all wars, is vast. According to the UN, over 500 children were killed in the current civil war alone, and two million more are displaced or otherwise kept out of school.
3584 schools in Yemen are still closed. 502 are destroyed, and the number is mounting. Yemeni teachers, mostly women with children of their own, face a Herculean task in continuing their work.
With so many schools closed, class sizes can only mount and mount. An average class size in Yemen now is over 100 students to a classroom. Power cuts are frequent, reducing their resources to white-boards by candle-light and books that are becoming scarce.
But the biggest difficulty, according to those teachers, is within the students themselves. Living in a war zone takes its toll hardest on youth. PTSD is nearly universal, especially in cities central to the conflict, like Sana’a and Taiz.
“It’s miserable when your home is beside a target,” said Tahani, an English teacher from Sana’a. She, her family, and many of her students were evacuated from their homes in March, and have not been able to return. There will likely be nothing to return to.
“Every time my children hear an explosion or planes, they are so scared. We are really forced to cope with this situation and pretend that everything is ok,” she said, not only of her own family but of her students.
Teachers like Tahani, an 11-year-veteran of Yemeni schools, are going above and beyond to help their students, now. With the help of UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, teachers and social workers underwent key training to provide psychological support to traumatized students. That training was in July of this year, and Tahani and her colleagues are expected to pass that training along to other teachers at their schools.
Without support, most of this generation of Yemeni youth will never return to school, doing irreparable damage to the future of the country.