In wartime Yemen, children find solace in music

TAEZ, Yemen: The sound of music fills the halls at a school in the Yemeni city of Taez, where little Nazira al Jaafari sits at a keyboard as a teacher takes her through the notes.
“I love music,” said Jaafari, a pupil at the Al Nawares school where tutors are trying to help students temporarily forget the ongoing war. “Whenever I feel sad or uncomfortable, I play music.” She has built up an eclectic repertoire, including happy birthday and cult songs by Arab icons Fairuz and Umm Kalthoum.
“I just hope that Yemen will win this war,” she said before exhaling deeply, then smiling and adding: “And that we can live a new life.” Taez, a city in the southwestern Yemeni highlands, was once known for its coffee beans, grown at high elevation and exported through the famed port of Mokha.
Today, the city is home to some of the most intense fighting in a war between Ansarullah and rival government forces.
The United Nations has urged both parties to open humanitarian corridors to besieged Taez, where state troops are embedded inside city limits — surrounded by rebel forces.
The three-storey Al Nawares school was hit in 2015-2016, right after Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s fight against the Ansarullah.
When it reopened its doors, walls still pockmarked with bullet holes, educators decided to expand the music programme, making it part of the core curriculum alongside maths and Arabic, with the hope that it would restore joy to their students’ days.
“The psychological state of the students was very difficult when we reopened here, after all the shelling and bombing and fighting,” said principal Shehabeddine al Sharabi.
The head of a university in neighbouring Mokha recommended music, loaning instruments to Al-Nawares free of charge.
“Music is not an extra-curricular activity here. We can see how it impacts our students, how they are more responsive through music. It yields purely positive revenue,” Sharabi said.
While the lessons are not part of a formal mental health programme, music therapy has been used around the world to support those who have experienced trauma. — AFP