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UN: Yemen’s Children Losing Out on Education, Future

People gather at a school damaged by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, July 20, 2015.

Four months of intensive bombing have devastated Yemen’s school system, causing nearly two million children to miss out on an education and a bright future. But the United Nations Children’s Fund is working with the country's Ministry of Education to get as many children as possible back to school by the September 5 start date.

One of the most tragic aspects of this war is that hundreds of children have lost their lives — school is no longer an option.

UNICEF reported that 365 children have been killed and 484 injured since Saudi Arabia began airstrikes against Houthi rebels on March 26. In addition, it said the bombing and street fighting have forced more than 3,600 schools to close and thousands of families to flee to safer areas in the country.

It said around 250 schools have been damaged, 270 others are being used as shelters for internally displaced people, and 68 are occupied by armed groups. To compensate for this major loss of school facilities, UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac said temporary learning spaces such as tents will be provided.

School is scheduled to start on September 5, depending on the security situation. But another deadline looms before that date, Boulierac told VOA.

He said more than 200,000 students in grades 9-12 have to take national exams due to start in mid-August.

“There is a convergence of efforts," he said. "We are really supporting that to make sure these children starting now will have three weeks of catching up … to make sure that they have a chance to attend and to pass their national examination — grades 9-12. Otherwise, the year is just lost.”

The children must pass the examinations to obtain their Basic or Secondary School certificates. Boulierac said so-called catch-up classes also will be provided for some 1.8 million children who hope to return to school in September.

He said these children have missed out on more than two months of their education because of the conflict.

To help make the return to school in war-torn Yemen possible, UNICEF is appealing for $11 million. It said the money will be used to support the rehabilitation of damaged schools, provide school supplies, train teachers and community workers and get traumatized children the psychological support they need.