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Improved education: A ticket to a brighter future for Yemen's children

A group of young girls in white hijabs smiling and posing for a photo with a woman wearing black hijab

Sawsan and her students in their newly-constructed classroom. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

Sawsan and her students in their newly-constructed classroom. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

During conflicts, children suffer first and suffer most. They are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, and risks. Children living in conflict areas are more likely to be living in extreme poverty, for instance, and not enrolled in schools.

The seven-year-old conflict in Yemen has had a heavy toll on children’s lives, potential, and future, with 1.3 million Yemeni children in need of some form of humanitarian aid or protection. A child dies every nine minutes in Yemen due to preventable diseases, malnutrition, displacement, and conflict. Over two million children under five are at risk of experiencing acute malnutrition in the course of 2022, including about 538,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition to the extent where they will need treatment.

The conflict has had a negative impact on learning and education quality. More than two million school-age girls and boys in Yemen are out of school because of poverty, conflict, and lack of educational opportunities. Nearly one-third of schools across the country are damaged and/or unfit for learning. The humanitarian education cluster estimates that 8.1 million children across Yemen need emergency education assistance. Even where schooling is available, the educational environment is very challenging for young learners. Overcrowded classrooms, teachers not properly trained and paid, lack of books and learning materials, and limited access to preschools are some of the obstacles that young students have to face.

Three young girls sitting in a classroom desk
Students play with the puzzles and other items in the recreational kit behind them. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

“I’ve been teaching first and second-grade students for nearly eight years,” says Sawsan Ali Hussein, an elementary school teacher from Sarar district of Abyan governorate. “We used to follow outdated teaching methods based on rote learning, so merely involving memorizing and repeating information to a large number of students crammed in a small classroom. Young children used to get frustrated and struggle in such an environment. I tried to upgrade my teaching skills to provide quality education and psychological support for my students, but I didn’t know where to start.”

The education cluster in Yemen estimates that over 171,600 teachers are not receiving salaries or incentives in 206 districts in the country. This has negatively affected the quality of learning for 3.6 million girls and boys in these areas. Teachers, who can also be traumatized by ongoing conflict, aren’t properly trained on psychosocial support, risk prevention, and other critical topics for teaching in conflict zones.

Despite conflict surrounding them, students should gain some sense of normalcy in school. “It’s important for children to learn in a suitable environment to ensure quality education,” says Sawsan. “This involves using visual stimulation, intellectual games, and sports to motivate students and encourage young ones to love schooling.”

A new yellow building
Earlier, Sawsan's school benefited from the construction of two new classrooms. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

CARE works to improve access to quality education through promoting safe learning environments that contribute to students’ emotional, mental, and physical well-being. CARE targeted four schools in Sarar district of Abyan governorate to expand learning space by establishing and rehabilitating classrooms and sanitation facilities in these schools. The project also provides learning materials and recreational kits, which include footballs, ball pumps, skipping ropes, puzzles, and other educational games, enhancing the learning experience for nearly 877 young students – 384 boys and 493 girls. The provision of learning materials is also integrated with the provision of psychosocial support activities.

Sawsan was one of sixty teachers and school administrators who have been trained in various educational practices, modern teaching methods and psychosocial support. “The training provided me with the skills needed to help young students develop their communication and interactive skills,” says Sawsan. “Using interactive teaching methods and the materials in the recreational kits has helped students develop their vocabulary and reading fluency.”

A group of women in black Hijabs sitting in a classroom with a man standing in front of the classroom
Sawsan and her colleagues during the training. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

“To help other teachers who didn’t attend the training,” adds Sawsan, “I’m now drafting a brief guideline on basic concepts in psychosocial support and communication with children. I hope this helps my colleagues.”

Watching students playing happily with the toys in the recreational kits, Sawsan hopes that they continue to grow in a safe and healthy environment and reach their full potential. “I trust the students are now enjoying school more than ever. I hope this project will be implemented in other schools so a whole generation of children can enjoy a better learning experience,” Sawsan concludes.

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