"I am proud of my mom, she is a great teacher who spreads knowledge to the students. I want to become like her - a teacher," Mohammed says. 

Mohammed (10) is Rahma's son. He studies in the classroom, but dosen't always have a place to sit. 

With support from ECHO, NRC has built new classrooms and wash facilities in the Yemen Al-Mustaqbel school in Sana’a.The new classrooms will accommodate an additional 500 students next school year.

NRC’s education programmes in Sana’a seeks to ensure that children affected by war have continued access to school. This includes displaced and host community children. NRC covers teacher incentives, repair buildings, train teachers and provide educational resources like desks and books.

Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC
Yemen

Teaching on an empty stomach

Schoolteacher Rahma Ahmed’s world was turned upside-down when her pay was suddenly stopped three years ago. Before the conflict in Yemen began in 2015, she had a good life in the western city of Sana’a with her husband and son. Now she teaches for free and scrapes a living selling posters.

Rahma, 32, teaches Arabic at the Yemen Al-Mustaqbal School in Sana’a’s Bani Al-Harith district. She has been a teacher for the last seven years. Her original salary was modest but allowed her to cover daily needs and rent a home with her husband and ten-year-old son Mohammed.

Then, three years ago, everything changed. Rahma, together with thousands of other teachers and civil servants, had her salary stopped because of the conflict between the authorities in the north and the internationally recognised government. Almost overnight, over half of Yemen’s teachers were left without pay – affecting 10,000 schools and nearly 4 million children, according to Global Education Cluster figures.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is working to support teachers like Rahma. We are providing teacher incentives, training, resources and building repairs so that Yemen’s children can continue going to school.

Drawing posters to survive

Since the pay crisis, Rahma has been struggling to make ends meet and frequently has to witness her son going to bed hungry. Her husband left her, humiliated that he could not afford anything for his family. Rahma turned to her drawing skills to make some money. She started creating posters to be used in schools, for a meagre fee of around USD 1 per item.

Mohammed showing his mother's art work. 

"I am proud of my mom, she is a great teacher who spreads knowledge to the students. I want to become like her - a teacher," Mohammed says. 

Mohammed (10) is Rahma's son. He studies in the classroom, but dosen't always have a place to sit. 

With support from ECHO, NRC has built new classrooms and wash facilities in the Yemen Al-Mustaqbel school in Sana’a.The new classrooms will accommodate an additional 500 students next school year.

NRC’s education programmes in Sana’a seeks to ensure that children affected by war have continued access to school. This includes displaced and host community children. NRC covers teacher incentives, repair buildings, train teachers and provide educational resources like desks and books.

Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC
Read caption Mohammed helps his mother Rahma to organise her artwork. When she’s not teaching, she produces posters for schools for a meagre fee of around USD 1 per item. Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC

“It’s not much, but I love doing it and it helps me make something,” Rahma explains, as she shows us her drawings. “Before the war we used to get a regular salary. It was quite low, but so were the prices. Now I sometimes borrow money to get my son a sandwich for breakfast and school stationery. I want to keep him motivated since his father left us. I don’t want to destroy his future.”

Millions of children need help

The Global Education Cluster estimates that 4.7 million boys and girls need educational assistance across Yemen, including 3.7 million who are in acute need. Support for teacher salaries is the most critical and urgent need for the upcoming school year.

Some two million children are now out of school, depriving them of an education and exposing them to greater risks of child marriage or recruitment by armed groups. About 2,000 schools have been damaged, destroyed, inhabited by displaced families or occupied by armed groups since the start of the war.

I am proud of my mom. She is a great teacher who spreads knowledge to the students.
Mohammed, Rahma's ten-year-old son

Despite all the challenges facing her, Rahma still goes to school every day to teach students.

“My motivation for coming to school is to educate and build the next generation,” she says, “and it’s not fair to let Yemeni children down because of the salary; the salary is nothing. I also want to keep my son motivated not to leave school.”

Rahma teaches Arabic lecture, she started her career in teaching since 2012 as a teacher. Her life was stable with her husband and her child Mohamed, 10 yrs. Before the conflict started, Rahma and her husband were able to afford the daily needs as the income could cover the house rent and food. 

Since the conflict started, education sector in Yemen collapsed, Teachers who have not received regular salaries for two years, can no longer meet their most basic needs and have been forced to seek other ways of income to provide for their families. Rahma one of the teachers who haven’t received a salary and she could stay seeing her son starving after her husband also left them because he could not afford anything for them. Rahma has skills on drawing, an alternative way to get income she draws scholastic arts and sells them for schools in a nominal amount 400-500 Yemeni Rial which’s (1$) per piece. 

“Before the war, we were receiving salaries, somehow it’s little but at least we can afford everything as prices were affordable. But now no salary and if we get the same amount of salary it will not cover 50kg of wheat… it's nothing.”

“Sometimes, I borrow money to get my son a sandwich for breakfast and some stationary for my son, I want to keep him motivated after his father left us. I don’t want to destroy his future.”

“I use my skills on drawing to draw scholastic arts for the schools, I get around 1$ per piece, it not much, but I love doing it” 

Despite all the challenging she faced, Rahma continues going to school and teaching the students. Her motivation is to educate the next generation who’d build her country and she believes that it not fair to let those children without education. 

“The motivation to come to school is to educate and build the next generation, and it’s not fair to let Yemeni children without education no because of the salary, the salary is nothing. I want also to keep my son motivated to not leave the school.”


Rahma sees the students suffer the most, the student behaviors changed because of the war and the students become more violent and aggressive, in addition to that some of her students cannot afford the transportation or breakfast, they sometimes come to school hungry which make them unable to comprehend the classes and some cases fall down during the day because of hunger.

“I remember one of my students has fallen down because she did not eat breakfast and she cannot afford”

“I can see also some student cannot be active in the class because they eat only one meal per day according to my discussion with some students.” 

“Students also traumatized because of the war and they can no find a safe place to study.” 

Rahma’s son Mohammed 10, years old, 5th grade, He is the only child for her. Raham takes Mohammed every day with her to the school to save more money even if she has no classes to teach, they go together to the school to by walking. The school is one kilometer far away from the school it exhausting for her son.

“I take my son every day with me to the school, in order to save some money, we share the breakfast together even if I don’t have classes I stay until he finishes.”


School situation
The school is a poor condition, small and it hosts more than 1500 students. The school building is basically a rental house and it has no school facilitations or yard for students. In addition to small classrooms with almost no desks. Some students take their classes on the roof of the school building due to a shortage of space. 

“The building is a poor condition; the classes are small and student set on the ground. The affect negatively on students. Some of them the study on the roof under the sun.”

“The fear also from the diseases, the crowded place could be a place for spreading the disease.”


Rahma’s dream is to become an artist, she wants to sell her artworks to help vulnerable people in Yemen and help them to get medical treatment. Also, she wants the war to end 

“I want to become an artist so that I can sell my arts and give the money to people in need especially who need medical treatment that causes by this war.”
“I wish the peace returns back to my country. I don’t want to see children’s future unknown.” 



NRC is responding to Yemen Al-Mustaqbal School with ECHO fund by building new classrooms and desks, in addition, to conduct training for the teachers and creating temporary Learning Spaces (TLS). The students will be able to move the new building in the coming school year. 

“Thanks for the donor, we are really excited to move the new place, I am sure that the new build will be a motivation for the children and change to their behaviors.” 
“Students will have a place to learn and play, the new building has a lot of facilities that would help students to have a quality education.”

Photo Credit: Mohammed Awadh/NRC
Read caption Rahma and her son Mohammed, aged 10. “I take my son every day with me to the school in order to save some money,” she says. “We share breakfast together and even if I don’t have classes I stay until he finishes.” Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC

Her son Mohammed says that he is inspired by his mother’s commitment: “I am proud of my mom. She is a great teacher who spreads knowledge to the students. I want to become like her – a teacher.”

Aggression, trauma and hunger

Rahma sees first-hand how students are suffering as a result of the war. Their behaviour in class has changed over the years: some have become more aggressive, some show signs of trauma, while others go to school hungry, leaving them struggling to follow lessons.

“I remember one of my students collapsed because she had not eaten breakfast,” Rahma recalls. “Some students cannot be active in class because they eat only one meal per day. Students are also traumatised because of the war, and they cannot find a safe place to study.”

Rahma’s school is in very poor condition. Hosting more than 1,500 students, it is a rented house with no facilities or space for children to play. The classrooms are small, with few desks, and some students have to take classes on the roof because of the lack of space.

"I am proud of my mom, she is a great teacher who spreads knowledge to the students. I want to become like her - a teacher," Mohammed says. 

Mohammed (10) is Rahma's son. He studies in the classroom, but dosen't always have a place to sit. 

With support from ECHO, NRC has built new classrooms and wash facilities in the Yemen Al-Mustaqbel school in Sana’a.The new classrooms will accommodate an additional 500 students next school year.

NRC’s education programmes in Sana’a seeks to ensure that children affected by war have continued access to school. This includes displaced and host community children. NRC covers teacher incentives, repair buildings, train teachers and provide educational resources like desks and books.

Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC
Read caption The classrooms in Rahma’s school are small and overcrowded, with not enough desks. Some students have to sit on the ground and use whatever surface is available to work on. Photo: Mohammed Awadh/NRC

“Some of the students have to sit on the ground, some of them study on the roof under the sun,” Rahma says. “This affects their learning. Having overcrowded classrooms also means there is a fear of diseases spreading in the school.”

Rahma’s dream is to see peace return to Yemen and people resuming their normal lives. “I don’t want to see an unknown future for our children,” she says.

Read also: Rebuilding bombed schools in Yemen

More support is needed

As well as money for teachers, support is needed to provide supplies and school meals as an incentive to keep children in school. This is because families often de-prioritise education in difficult economic times and send their children out to work.

Even if families are able to send some of their children to school, it’s often the girls who miss out when resources are limited. Currently in Yemen, 36 per cent of girls are out of school compared to 24 per cent of boys.

NRC’s education programme in Yemen aims to ensure that children continue going to school. We provide teacher incentives, teacher training, repairs to old and damaged school buildings, and resources such as desks and books.

At Rahma’s school, we have built new classrooms which will provide space for 500 children in the coming school year.

Read also: The aid makes a difference for people in Yemen

How you can make a difference

Help us to support Rahma and other struggling teachers, so that they can help to provide a brighter future for Yemen’s children. You can contribute to our work in the following ways:

  1. Make a donation to NRC today – via our safe and easy online donation system.
  2. Start your own fundraising page – and invite friends and family to help you reach your target.
  3. Read about ten things YOU can do for the world’s refugees – and discover some creative ways that you can raise money and awareness.

For alternative ways to donate, or if you’re a US citizen looking to make a 100% tax-deductible donation, please see our Make a difference page.