Courage and computer labs

Access to vital learning opportunities amid a crisis

A girl student
21 February 2020

The ongoing crisis in Yemen has devastated the education system. Over 2000 schools have been damaged by fighting, are unfit for use because of occupation by military personnel or being used as housing for displaced communities. In some parts of the country teachers have not received their salaries since October 2016. Despite this, UNICEF, with generous support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), are working to prevent the total collapse of the education system and ensure the children of Yemen can access vital learning opportunities.

a teacher teaching a classroom
A teacher and her young students sit in class at the Al Naser school in Beit Boos

One such school that has benefitted from this support is the Al-Nasser school in Beit Boos, a suburb on the outskirts of Yemen’s capital Sana’a. There are over 1600 children that attend this school, in two shifts, after the crisis has caused the schools around them to close. The school is bustling with activity as hordes of students arrive to take their lessons.

In 2019, as part of an ongoing package of support from the GPE, Al-Nasser school received a computer lab. This consists of 11 laptops (and accompanying equipment) and solar panels to keep them running when the power cuts. The new computer lab is housed in the school’s library where the empty shelves are a reminder of the shortage of textbooks caused by the conflict.

students in a computer lab
The computer lab at Al Nasser sits in the library and runs by solar power

Najah Mohammed is one of the computer science teachers at Al Nasser. Her current class of final year students follow her instructions meticulously as they huddle around each laptop.  Najah tells us that she believes the computer labs are going to equip her students for the realities they will face in the workforce as they leave school. “I believe with these computers the girls are learning life skills while learning is made more attractive. The labs help us as we have a shortage of textbooks, we can make soft copies (of textbooks,)” she says.   

a school yard
The Al Naser school in Beit Boos serves over 1600 students, while many of the schools have been forced, by the ongoing humanitarian crisis, to shut down around them

The school has received a package of support through the GPE. It keeps the school functioning in the face of the ongoing crisis. The latest addition of the computer lab is welcome as teachers struggle with dwindling supplies of textbooks and students coming to school to escape the daily reality of conflict. The hope is that by developing the student’s capacity to work with computers they will be better equipped when they leave school and enter the workforce in Yemen.

“Technology is spreading out all over the world. Most kids have some familiarity with smartphones but proper technology, computers, connect them with skills that social media cannot teach them,” says AbdulRahman Al Sharjabi an Education Officer with UNICEF.

“I hope this programme can put them at the cutting edge of technology, that it will take them further in their area of specialty. It means Yemenis can become part of the international community. They might look for a field of study that will help this country. They will build their skills, we need to build the skills of this next generation,” he adds.  

A young girl learns in a computer science class
A young girl learns in a computer science class

As the computer class ends Najah wants to send a message to the community about why this support is such a vital lifeline for her students. “The crisis has affected all of our student’s ability to learn. There are fewer girls able to go to school. Families have less financially. Children are stressed. For teachers, we haven’t been paid in 3 years. The crisis has affected all teachers’ salaries. Education will be reduced for a generation. We, our school will stay open while many have closed.”

two girls sitting at a school desk
The students of Al Nasser know that to rebuild their country, to preserve the peace they dream of, they will need the same opportunities as children everywhere.

The generous support provided by the Global Partnership for Education is vital for providing access to education for children that continue to carry the burden of a conflict that much of the world has forgotten. Like children everywhere, they want to take advantage of the opportunities the modern world has to offer. In response, in 2020, the GPE partnership will continue to expand with interventions such as incentives for rural female teachers, school grants and rehabilitation, school feeding initiatives and the further development of an education information management system.