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From student to teacher

16 February 2021, Voices from the Field

Education provides a lifeline for Yemeni children

Mohammed* was only eight when war intensified in his childhood town of Hodeida in Yemen. His family fled to Aden in the south where they would be safe from the bombing. 

Desperate to re-start his learning, his mother Salema* tried to enrol him into school as soon as they arrived. But from one primary school to the next, all Mohammed received was rejection after rejection. All the local schools were full.  

We were disappointed at first when schools rejected Mohammed, one year after the other. We thought it was our children’s destiny to be illiterate.

Salema

It was something Salema couldn’t just stand by and watch happen. “Mohammed’s father is a daily labour worker, he is barely able to provide some income for his family. After we were displaced, we realised that education is the only way to give our children a better life.”

A space for Mohammed 

After two years in Aden, Salema heard about the informal education classes that Save the Children runs in their neighbourhood. 

She wasted no time in enrolling Mohammed, now 10, and within months Mohammed had learnt to read and write. “Last year when I first joined the centre, I wasn’t able to recognise the alphabet,” says Mohammed. “But I worked hard and went to the centre every day. My teachers helped me a lot and everything became easier day by day.”

Teachers at the Al-Basateen centre were impressed with his development and advised Salema to try to enrol him in a formal school.


Mohammed was able to enrol into a public school after learning in a non-formal setting with Save the Children.
Photo: Omaima Abdu (Nahda Makers)/ Save the Children

 

“I was surprised when the teachers told me it is time to enrol Mohammed in a formal school and that he can pass a grade or two easily,” said Salema. “Fortunately, our son was accepted in Al-Basateen school after undergoing a test that placed him in the third grade. I am happy that Mohammed can now attend school normally with children his age.”

Now in his new school, Mohammed is settling into a new routine. “Leaving the centre was very hard. I miss my teachers, my friends and the activities we used to have in class, especially drawing and painting. The new school is stricter, but I’ve started making friends.”


Mohammed in the classroom, now able to read and write like his peers.
Photo: Photo: Omaima Abdu (Nahda Makers)/ Save the Children

 

Spreading the learning

Mohammed loves learning and now shares what he’s learnt with his younger brother and sister. “I love playing and acting like a teacher with them. After I finish my homework, I usually teach them the letters of the alphabet and the numbers. I want both of them to be able to read like I can. My younger brother started studying in the Non-Formal Education Centre and I hope he will be able to join me at school next year.”

He also supports his illiterate parents with everyday tasks that need literacy skills. “It feels good that I can help my parents reading things like signposts in the street and labels on the food cans. My mother is very proud of me, and always shows off about me in front of everyone.”

Thanks to Save the Children and generous supporters, Mohammed now has a dream for the future. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up. I want to help people who can’t read and write, because the ability to read is the best feeling in the world.”

*Names changed to protect privacy

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