When the 2014-2015 school year was disrupted by the outbreak of war, Yemeni teacher Adel al-Shurihi and his colleagues decided to take matters into their own hands by opening a temporary school.
Some schools in the western province of Taez had been destroyed in the fighting with the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), and most were forced to close for the second part of the school year, as the conflict continued to rage on.
"Students were deprived of the second semester in the 2014-2015 school year, and we saw at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year that students would be deprived of school again," al-Shurihi told Al-Mashareq.
In response to the situation, he said, "a number of teachers and I decided to open a school, by turning my house into a temporary school".
"We received 500 male and female students in our first year," he said, noting that by the current school year, that number had risen to 762 students, enrolled in grades one through nine.
Al-Nahda School serves students in the western Taez district of Wadi al-Salmi, who pay the same token tuition fees imposed by public schools, he said.
After three years of war, Yemen's education system is in ruins, with some two million children across the country out of school, according to UNICEF.
Al-Nahda School is the only hope the people of the area have to see their children continue their education, al-Shurihi said, noting that the nearest school is more than five kilometres away.
Though it fulfills a vital need, he said, the school has only received half the support it needs from the Education Office, such as textbooks and supplies.
Paid and volunteer teachers
Al-Nahda School employs 38 paid and volunteer teachers, al-Shurihi said.
Of this number, 22 receive their salaries from the Ministry of Education, while the other 16 work on a voluntary basis to serve the people of the area.
Some volunteer teachers travel to the school from remote areas and require a travel allowance of about 200 riyals ($0.80) per day, he said.
But for financial support, he noted, "the school relies on its own efforts".
The Taez governor has praised the initiative, and has promised the school a sum of money, he said, which will be allocated "to completing the school’s windows to protect the students from the waves of bitter cold during the winter".
"The school will continue to operate until the UAE Red Crescent fulfills its promise of building a school in the area, 80 metres away from our school," he said.
As for his own accommodation, al-Shurihi said he is using the building adjacent to the school as a residence for his family, even though it is very small, to support the overriding interest of educating the children of the area.
The Taez Education Office supports all initiatives that seek to ensure the continuation of the education process, "especially under these critical circumstances", said Education Office director general Adel Shadad.
The Ministry of Education "supports the Al-Nahda School initiative... as well as other initiatives in al-Muzaffar and Salh districts", he told Al-Mashareq.
The ministry provides these schools with textbooks and teachers in the same way it does for public schools, he said.
The ministry will support al-Shurihi’s initiative as long as it remains a temporary initiative to perform the public school function in that area, Shaddad said.
After that, he said, al-Shurihi will have two options: either turn it into a private school, or continue to operate it as a public school and receive government support.
Educating future generations
"Al-Shurihi’s is a superb and unique initiative that revealed to us a man who looks for knowledge in a time of war, and a spirit that yearns for a bright future by educating future generations," said Taez Information Office director general Najeeb Qahtan.
Al-Nahda School aims to nourish the intellect and spirit, and is "an enlightening initiative for a generation that needs to be armed with constructive knowledge instead of with the weapons of war and ignorance", he told Al-Mashareq.
"Al-Shurihi gave up his home and his family’s residence and turned it into a residence for hundreds of minds that will shine brightly," Qahtan said.
Al-Shurihi is one of the men of Taez who lives by the maxim, "knowledge first", he added, calling on the government and the local authority to give him appropriate recognition for what he has done for the community.