Classrooms in Yemen shuttered on first day of school

Classrooms in Yemen’s capital and rebel-held north remained largely closed to students on Sunday, the first day of school, as war, hunger and an economic collapse leave millions struggling to survive.
“The future of 4.5 million students hangs in the balance,” Rajat Madhok, spokesman of the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Yemen, said.
Schools in the capital Sanaa and across northern Yemen were forced to delay the September 30 start of the scholastic year by two weeks after the rebels failed to pay teachers’ salaries. Sanaa and northern Yemen are controlled by a rebel alliance, which is locked in a war with the government.
Some 73 per cent of Yemen’s teachers have not received their salaries in a year and many are no longer willing to continue working without pay, Madhok said.
Teachers are frequently turning to other jobs to feed their families.
AFP reporters on the ground in Sanaa saw a few schools opening only to register students, while many others were closed amid a strike by the national teachers’ union. In areas of Yemen under the control of the internationally recognised government, most schools opened as scheduled on October 1.
Allied with Yemeni strongman and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the rebels in 2014 drove the government out of Sanaa and south into Aden, hometown of Saleh’s successor Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Hadi government last year pulled the central bank from rebel-held Sanaa to Aden, a move the UN said deprived more than one million civil servants of their salaries and pushed families towards starvation.
Earlier, a UN official said 500 attacks on schools are documented in just six months, as 2017 is shaping up as a record year for the number of schools bombed and destroyed in war zones like Yemen, South Sudan and Syria.
Last year, the United Nations was able to verify 753 attacks on schools and hospitals in 20 countries wracked by conflict as the world body seeks to track the violence and find ways to better protect children. Virginia Gamba, the UN special representative for children in armed conflict, told an informal Security Council meeting that attacks appeared to be on the rise this year.
“It is no consolation that in the last six months alone, over 500 schools have already been attacked, which means we might be able to break this record at the end of this year,” Gamba told the council. — Agencies