MUHIB, Yemen: Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in a rural area in the southern province of Hodeida on Sept 1, 2021. – AFP

AL-TUHAYTA, Yemen: Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi gives a science lesson to children sprawled across the ground at her home in a remote village in the southern province of Hodeida. For these boys and girls, learning at Mahdi's sun-scorched compound is their only opportunity for an education in the small rural area of Muhib in the Al-Tuhayta district. She had already been teaching children to read and write before the outbreak of the impoverished country's devastating war in 2014.

"What pushed me towards teaching was the high rate of ignorance in the village and that children were deprived of an education," Mahdi told AFP. With dozens of children to tend to, Mahdi has divided them into three groups based on age, teaching each class for two hours a day. Other than learning how to read and write, the children also get lessons in maths and science.

But Mahdi said her house, with hundreds of books piled on a single shelf, is not really equipped for teaching. "There is lots of damage from the sun and heat," she said, wearing an all-black niqab. Yemen's war pits the government - backed by a Saudi-led military coalition - against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and much of the northern and western parts of the country. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

'Public place'

More than 2,500 schools in the country are unfit for use, with some destroyed and others turned into refugee camps or military facilities, according to the UN's children's agency. UNICEF has estimated that two million children were without school even before the coronavirus pandemic, a further systemic shock which it warns has likely propelled the number even higher.

"We wouldn't have been able to read, write or learn if it weren't for Miss Amina," one of the pupils, Ibrahim Mohib, told AFP. His father, Mohammed, said he had no regrets sending his three children to learn at Mahdi's home. "They were taught there from the first until the fourth grades, and thank God for (Mahdi) striving to teach them," he said.

Mahdi said she hopes to get some form of help to teach the children. "I ask all those who are charitable to bring joy to these children... and offer aid to establish a real school," she said. "My small home is not good enough, and it has become a public place where I am no longer comfortable." - AFP