A Yemeni boy in a red and black shirt looks at the camera, and his school, a large beige building is in the background.

Suhaib's home and school have been damaged by the ongoing conflict in Yemen. He looks forward to being able to return to school, which has been shut down due to COVID-19. 

Suhaib’s Story: Conflict and Covid-19 Keeps Yemen’s Children Out of School

Children in Yemen have been living through war and conflict for nearly six years. Two million children are out of school and many more face high levels of acute food shortages and are at risk of falling into famine

After an airstrike destroyed his home in Yemen, 13-year-old Suhaib* and his family had to move to a safer area, uprooting him, his parents and his five brothers. Even getting an education was dangerous – his school was also damaged due to conflict.  

“We used to hear the warplanes and shelling at night,” he said. “We were extremely afraid.”

When Suhaib was in sixth grade, his father could no longer afford to send him to school. As the youngest of six boys, he was forced to leave his education behind and recounted how difficult that experience was for him.

“The hardest time I have ever went through was when I saw the children going to school while I couldn’t. I used to hide behind the school and cry,” he said. 

Suhaib's emotional experience is similar to what many children living in war-affected countries face. In addition to the physical wounds of war, children living through conflict undergo severe emotional distress. Some experience such severe trauma due to prolonged, toxic stress, that they become unable to speak.

At one point, his school’s classrooms were destroyed in an airstrike. In areas experiencing urban conflict, schools are often deliberately targeted. The rooms were on the verge of collapse while students attended their classes. There were no doors or windows, and while they studied, a ceiling fan hung precariously above them.

Children in conflict zones often can’t go to school for months, and sometimes years, at a time, due to unsafe conditions. This prolonged amount of time away from the classroom limits their development and opportunities for the future. 

Suhaib recalled that the condition of their classroom was unsafe, and that Save the Children was able to support efforts to repair the school. As well rehabilitating the building, Save the Children also distributed school bags and built new bathrooms for the students. Now everything looks good, he said.

Suhaib was able to return to school when Save the Children helped to provide access for him to register to attend class. He was also provided a student kit and food package to help support his family.

His classmates also felt happier and more secure after their school was repaired as well, which encouraged many other out-of-school children to return to school.

Unfortunately, Suhaib’s school has closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, but he says he can’t wait for his school to re-open and return to in-person learning.

“Save the Children gave me and my siblings the most important right as children, which is education,” Suhaib said.  “We wish that Covid-19 could be controlled so we can go back to school and resume our studies.”

Worldwide, 300 million children are still affected by school closures and unsafe conditions. They are left vulnerable to the risk of child abuse, exploitation, child marriage or children dropping out of school permanently.

*Name has been changed for child protection

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