Despite lack of salaries, female Yemeni teachers continue their efforts to provide children with a better future

By UNICEF Yemen, 5 November 2018

Sana’a, Yemen, 4 November 2018 – In Sana’a, there are many stories of determined teachers to tell.

At the 22nd of May school of the capital city of Yemen, there are 2,420 students (1,231 girls and 1,189 boys) attending the morning shift, and a similar number of students registered in the afternoon. The school is operating with very limited resources, consisting of 24 classrooms barely furnished with no chairs for the students. Despite these challenges, children of Sana’a are still provided with an education thanks to the efforts carried out by 40 teachers and 12 volunteers.

Teachers in Yemen are real heroes

Two-thirds of the public school teachers are still awaiting their salaries after two years, mostly in the northern areas of the country and 4.1 million children are currently in need of educational assistance. But many of the teachers keep coming to work, hoping to give the children a chance for a better future and UNICEF continues to undertake all efforts to prevent the education system from collapsing and to improve access to and quality of education, particularly through providing incentives to the teachers who have not received salaries, establishing temporary learning spaces and rehabilitating schools.

UNICEF Yemen met some of the determined and self-committed female teachers working at the 2nd May school in Sana’a.

“As a mother, I know how many sacrifices parents have to make to send their children to school.”

Mrs. Fathimah Saeed Ahmed is a mathematics teacher for the 5th grade. She is married with four children. Fathimah and her husband haven’t received any salaries since October 2016. “I am committed to come to school to keep teaching. Two of my children are coming with me every day and if I would be on strike, they would be the first ones to be affected and deprived of education,” Fathimah says. “As a mother, I know how many sacrifices parents have to make to send their children to school and I know the pain they feel when children are left without schooling,” she continues. “As a teacher, I am not only suffering from the suspension of salaries, but also from the lack of schooling materials, such as textbooks for my students. I borrow books from my neighbor who sends his children to a private school. I am summarizing the lessons on the blackboard, asking the students to write my notes down in their own notebooks, which are the only reference they have to study and prepare for the exams.”

“I want to set an example for other teachers and encourage them to continue teaching our children, who might become the future leaders.”

Mrs. Nada Al Muhaiya is an 8th grade-English teacher, married with 6 children. Four of them study in public schools. She teaches four lessons a day. “My biggest motivation for continuing teaching and not looking for another job, is that I want to set an example for other teachers and encourage them to continue teaching our children, who might become the future leaders,” Nada says. “If I don’t send my children to school, what will be their future? Armed fighters or homeless!! All my students are in my kids age and they go through very difficult living conditions.” To reach the school, Nada walks every day with her children from home for more than 40min but she keeps coming and teaching with the same enthusiasm.

“Teaching is the only reason why I get up in the morning, my only motivation for my country and for the children of Yemen.”

Badriah Noor Al-Deen is the deputy headmaster of the 22nd May school and a Science teacher for 11th grade. She is married with 4 children. “Teaching is the only reason why I get up in the morning, my only motivation for my country and for the children of Yemen. Sometimes, I feel very saddened to work in these conditions, with no furniture or schooling materials. Also, during the winter, as the temperatures decrease, many students are skipping the classes and the few left are getting sick, since they sit on the floor all day with no heating,” Badriah explains. “Some fathers decide to send only half of their children to school, so the others can go to work and provide income to the family. This is very unfortunate. Our male teacher colleagues are usually teaching in the morning and looking for another job in the afternoon to cover the basic needs of their families.”