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Learning without chairs

More than 80 girls make up this class in Yarmouk primary school, which is in al-Mazraq IDP camp in Haradh District, Hajjah Governorate, northern Yemen
(Adel Yahya/IRIN)

Fatma Abdullah’s daughters Salma, aged 9, and Khadija, 11, are going to school for the first time in their lives in al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Haradh District, Hajjah Governorate, northern Yemen.



They had never been to school in their home area in Malihidh District, Saada Governorate, near the border with Hajjah, the scene of clashes between government troops and Houthi-led Shia rebels.



Salma and Khadija have enrolled in grade one, rather than grades three and five that children their age would normally be in.



"Before we fled our homes, my children received no education… They couldn't go to those faraway schools in neighbouring villages," said 50-year-old Fatma, a mother of nine.



"It is better for us to live in this camp than in our home district… I would like to see our little girls reading things to us and the other seven family members, including the three boys, who have never been to school."



UN officials said they were pleased: "I am pleased to see more than 80 little girls with their books in this classroom… It is our duty to teach children about their right to have education, food and protection,” Mahmoud Kabil, regional goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said on 19 October during a visit to the camp, some 300km northwest of the capital, Sanaa.



Poor conditions



"I saw children [in al-Mazraq camp] on the brink of death due to acute malnutrition and dehydration... I have never seen such a sight since I became UNICEF regional goodwill ambassador in 2003 - not when I was in Darfur five years back, or anywhere in this region," said Kabil in a statement on 20 October.



UNICEF said the latest estimates from Hajjah Governorate suggested there were up to 14,000 IDPs in and around al-Mazraq camp.



A daily influx of newcomers to the camp was weakening the already basic infrastructure.












Mahmoud Kabil, regional goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the conditions he saw in al-Mazraq camp were worse than those in Darfur

Adel Yahya/IRIN
Mahmoud Kabil, regional goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the conditions he saw in al-Mazraq camp were worse than those in Darfur
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Monday, October 19, 2009
Learning without chairs
Mahmoud Kabil, regional goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the conditions he saw in al-Mazraq camp were worse than those in Darfur


Photo: Adel Yahya/IRIN
Mahmoud Kabil, regional goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the conditions he saw in al-Mazraq camp were worse than those in Darfur

"One month ago, there were only 1,000 IDPs in the camp, but now their number exceeds 7,000, most of whom are children," Nasim Ur-Rehman, chief communications and information officer for UNICEF in Yemen, told IRIN on 19 October.



Burgeoning numbers



Yarmouk primary school in the camp originally served 135 local children, but now caters for some 950 (777 displaced and 165 locals), according to Ibrahim Qadash, a teacher at the school.



UNICEF, in cooperation with other aid agencies and local authorities, has provided tents, blackboards and teachers so that the school can cope with the growing numbers.



"We provided extra teachers and pay them to teach displaced children," said Ur-Rehman. "Between 30 and 40 displaced children apply for enrolment every day… Now, the school has 11 teachers, compared to only five who were teaching at the school before the displacement."



Children in classrooms or tents sit on the ground as there are not enough chairs. "Chairs don't matter, and they can learn without chairs," al-Qadash told IRIN. "The most important thing is that they get an education."



Schools damaged



Dozens of schools in Saada Governorate, where the fiercest fighting is taking place, have been damaged or completely destroyed in five years of intermittent conflict, said Abdullah Dhahban, a local councillor. "The war deprived tens of thousands of children of their right to education."



However, Dhahban noted that around 50 percent of school-age children in rural areas in Saada did not go to school even before the war and that at least half of those that did go to school, dropped out before grade seven.



According to UNICEF, at least half of the estimated 150,000 IDPs in northern Yemen are children.



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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