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Teaching in Yemen

A man standing in front of a class teaching

Mohammed teaching his 7th-grade students in Thua’al school in Al Hodeidah

Mohammed teaching his 7th-grade students in Thua’al school in Al Hodeidah

This is what education looks like in conflict-afflicted areas like Yemen: teachers, students, administrators, parents all live under constant fear, schools lack basic resources, and classes are overcrowded. In Yemen, the protracted conflict continues to disrupt the schooling of Yemeni children, with more than 2 million school-age girls and boys out of school. Out of 10.1 million school-aged girls and boys (5-17-years-old),  8.1 million need Education in Emergencies (EiE) assistance. These include 1.65 million internally displaced children, 1.5 million children with a disability and the rest are minority groups who face challenges accessing education.

The devastation of the education system in Yemen has had a profound impact on the learning and overall cognitive and emotional development of school-aged boys and girls across the country. One-third of schools in Yemen are non-functional. About 2,507 schools are reported destroyed, damaged, and/or utilized for non-educational purposes. Where schools remained safe and undamaged, their operation is obstructed by insufficient qualified teachers, inadequate basic resources and overcrowded.

In a crisis setting, the role of a teacher becomes more critical and complex than ever. In a normal setting, educators strive to be innovative in their teaching techniques.  When educators have the opportunity to offer creative learning experiences, children are fulfilled and feel the effect of such education.  “We all have had some wonderful and creative teachers who touched us deeply. For this reason, I have chosen to become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of children,” says Muna, a teacher from Amanat Al Asimah Governorate.

People sitting in groups and writing in a class set up.
Teachers during a reflection activity as part of an active learning training session in Amanat Al Asimah

The Education Cluster in Yemen estimates that over 171,600 Yemeni teachers are not receiving salaries or incentives. This led many teachers to seek out alternative livelihoods or to supplement their income in other ways to meet their family’s needs.

Mohammed Ahmed Nasser, 42 years old, is a teacher in Thua’al school in Az Zaydiyah – a district of Hodeidah governorate in the West of Yemen. Mohammed is one of many Yemeni teachers who have continued to teach even without regular salary payments for several years now. On the impact of salary suspension, he says: “ The ongoing crisis has badly affected my work as well as my family’s wellbeing. The screams of my young daughter break my heart. She suffers from soft bone disease, and I feel hopeless because I can’t buy her medicines. After I finish my work at school, I walk to the nearest shops and markets, to look for any other job opportunity just  to buy food for my family.”

“In addition to the hardship we are facing every day as Yemenis, teachers haven’t received their salaries for years which adds up to our daily struggle and limits our creativity in teaching,” adds Muna.

Seeing their homes and lives collapsing, many children struggle to deal with their experiences and often need some form of psychosocial support. Teachers are not properly trained on essential knowledge and skills to address the needs of conflict-affected children.

“Adhering to the traditional methods of teaching, which is all about lecturing students all the time, tires both the teachers and students,” says Muna. “When teachers step into their classroom to teach, they also carry the weight of war in the country. Gradually, they lose their interest in teaching, which also affects students and the quality of learning negatively.”

Two women and one man sitting at a table. The women are writing on a book
Some of the teachers during a group work activity in Amanat Al Asimah

Despite all the challenges, many Yemeni families still prioritize education. Many parents believe that going to school helps their children keep some sense of normality in otherwise stressful circumstances and improves the prospects for recovery and longer-term wellbeing. Yet, financial insecurity within most families prevents students from enrolling in schools and causes them to drop out. In some areas, families pay a small amount of money monthly as incentives to help their children’s teachers.

With funding from Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), CARE intervened in Amanat Al Asimah and Al Hodeidah governorates with its Foundation for Yemen’s Future project to re-empower education in conflict-affected communities. Through the project, CARE provided life skills training for teachers in 20 targeted schools, which spurred teachers to continue their work and give them a ray of hope towards educating their students. To help them mitigate the hardship of life during wartime, 1260 teachers received three cycles of cash incentives.

Learning new teaching methods help teachers gain the skills of managing their emotions, engage more positively with children, and create a compassionate and enabling learning environment.  “Thanks to CARE, we have been trained on the proper methods of teaching. We are in dire need of learning new approaches, and this training has boosted our teaching approaches, particularly during this difficult time,” states Muna. “During the training, we learned how to teach efficiently and engage students in the learning process through interactive activities. As a result, both teachers’ creativity and students’ skills opened up.”

“The cash incentives helped me buy food for my family and medicines for my young girl,” says Mohammed. “I will continue to teach and hope that both teachers and students would have a better future,” he concludes.

“I hope such a training programme will be implemented in all schools, so we can have a smart generation to build a happy country,” says Muna. “I also hope that teachers can receive their salaries. This positively affects the quality of education,” she concludes.

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