Displaced girls pursue their education and dreams in UNICEF-supported learning centers

D"My teacher: Your should show your smile more often."

By Marie Bracquemont
Shatha, a 13-year-old girl, displaced from Al Hudaydah, making accessories at the learning centre in Sana’a, Yemen.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Ahmed Aldobhani
06 February 2019

Sana'a, Yemen, 6 February 2019 Shatha and Sumaya both had to flee their home cities with their families due to the increase in violence in Yemen, and find refuge in the capital city of Sana’a. For these two girls, pursuing their education was crucial despite their displacement so they joined UNICEF-supported learning centers in Sana'a, where they benefited from compensatory classes and psychological support.

I wasn't feeling at home

Shatha Abdul Aziz is 13 years old. Her family left Al Hudaydah because of the renewed fighting last year. Since then, her parents’ economic situation worsened. “We left our home and everything because of the war”, Shatha says. The young girl was a 7th grade student in her home town and for her parents, it was important that she continue going to school. The first time Shatha joined the learning center of Sinan Hatroum School in Sana’a last summer, she wasn’t feeling at home. “I felt sad and I was sitting alone. I was ashamed of the color of my skin”, Shatha confesses. Her teacher Aman Salam noticed her difficulties right away. “During the psychological support activities at the centre, Shatha was reluctant to introduce herself and to interact with her classmates”, Aman says.

A beautiful smile

Shatha’s teacher didn’t give up and she helped the introverted girl feel more secure and integrate better. “My teacher told me I had a beautiful smile and that I should show it more often, she encouraged me to participate in the activities”, Shatha remembers. The shy girl started to gain more confidence, especially after winning a life skills’ competition. "Now I have friends and we go out to have breakfast together and play”, Shatha says while smiling brightly.

“I wish I can go back to my home city soon and that I can join another learning center there”, the young girl from Al Hudaydah hopes.

Girls can play and practice their hobbies in a safe environment.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Ahmed Aldobhani
Girls can play and practice their hobbies in a safe environment

At another UNICEF-supported learning centre, Sumaya has a similar story to share. The 18-year-old girl has been displaced for most of her life, from the place she was born in Sa’ada, through Hajjah, Al Hudaydah and finally to Sana’a with her parents and siblings. Being constantly on the move prevented her from completing her education but Sumaya has persisted. “Despite my long journey and the difficulties I faced, I never gave up on my education”, Sumaya says proudly.

Writing poetry to tell her story

Last summer, Sumaya joined the compensatory summer camp organised at Al Wahda School in the capital city. “On the first day, I was scared and confused because I did not know anyone there,” she says. Sumaya soon started to make friends and explore her talent for poetry, writing verses about her homeland, her childhood and her story of displacement.

"My teacher encouraged me to take part in a poetry contest organised at the school. She told me that I had a gift," Sumaya remembers. On the day of the competition, Sumaya went on stage to present her poem after which she received a standing ovation for her performance which impressed the audience. 

 “That’s when I realised my dream which is to convey the words I carry in my heart and I know I can become a poet one day”, Sumaya says.

Sumaya attending an English class at the learning centre of Wahda School
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Ahmed Aldobhani
Sumaya attending an English class at the learning centre of Wahda School.

At least 2 million children are currently out of school in Yemen.

With the support of its partners, UNICEF continues its emergency response to facilitate access to quality education for children across the country. In addition to supporting learning centers, UNICEF launched 35 summer camps last year in Amanat Al-Asimah (Sana’a city), Sana’a, Marib, Dhamar, Al-Baydha’a and Amran governorates to enable vulnerable children to pursue their education and benefit from educational and life skills classes, psychological assistance and counselling and extracurricular activities, to foster their abilities to cope with the traumatic experiences they faced in the past.

The German Development Bank KfW and the Swedish International Development Agency Sida have been long-term partners with UNICEF in providing quality education to displaced and conflict-affected children in Yemen. Thanks to their support and to other donors, 41,700 school bags were distributed to schoolchildren and some 157,400 children accessed education services in safe learning spaces in 2018. UNICEF and its partners will continue their education interventions in 2019 to make sure than at least 639,000 children will be able to continue their education and be given a chance for a brighter future.