It is not the back to school what the children of the Taiz city, in the southwest of Yemen. Beams that barely support themselves, battered walls and classrooms in the open because the shelling has destroyed almost the entire facade of the building. The basic building structures are barely supported, but in a country devastated by the war conflict dating back to 2014, that’s already more than enough to get back into the routine.
These children’s is a new exercise in survival and perseverance in an environment too cruel even for an adult. No windows, no tables, no chairs. Just rubble and ruins in the Al Wehdah school, always at risk of collapsing altogether.
Ali Sultan, father of a student, shows AFP a wall that reads in red “danger of mines”. This school, partly destroyed by a bombing in 2016, it is in the middle of a minefield that has been cleared to allow the students to gradually return.
“We had to make a difficult decision: either we left them at home or we took the risk of making them study under the rubble “, Sultan assures. “We had very difficult times,” remarks the student’s father, referring to the fighting that took place in this great city between the ruling forces and the Houthi rebels, who do not hesitate to fire at any target to respond to the attacks.
According to the Director of Education for the entire province of Taiz, Abdel Wasseh Chaddad, only in the capital of the same name “at least 47 schools were totally destroyed in the fighting. “Chaddad also refers to the difficult decision he had to make. He claims to have been forced to close the destroyed schools and direct the students to places where they could receive them, even if it meant that some of them had to do several kilometers to get there.
Without having a blackboard, Jamila al Wafi writes the class topic in pencil on a support beam. “We have 500 students “, Wafi, dressed in black with her face covered by a niqab, tells AFP, clarifying that boys and girls attend classes separately.
“We ask the whole world and businessmen to save this school that could collapse at any moment “, implores. In the courtyard, boys and girls line up silently as they wait to enter classrooms or play sports.
Aid from the oenegés
Across Yemen, more than 2,500 schools were shut down last year, according to the UN. Of these, two thirds were damaged by the attacks, 27% closed and 7% used by the Army or as shelters for the homeless. Two of the seven million Yemeni children of school age are not in school, according to the same source.
The war in Yemen pits the Houthi rebels, close to Iran – which control Sanaa and much of the north of the country – with the Government, militarily supported by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, according to international NGOs, and has led to what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Around 3.3 million people have had to leave and more than 24 million – more than 80% of the population – need assistance, according to the UN.