Thousands of pupils returned to school in the Yemeni province of Aden on Sunday, following efforts by the UAE to rebuild 154 institutions destroyed or damaged in fighting between Huthi rebels and pro-government forces.
The conflict led to the closure of schools in several parts of the country, including the southern province of Aden, which was liberated by loyalist fighters – backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition – in July.
Teaching resumed at 43 primary and secondary schools on Sunday, with building work still ongoing at other schools in the province.
"We thank the Emirates Red Crescent for its work in rehabilitating [the 154] schools which are enough for tens of thousands of students,” the director of Aden's education office, Salem Moghalis, told The National. "The Emirates Red Crescent has worked hard to ensure that teaching resumes in Aden, and we appreciate these efforts.”
Some of the city's biggest schools were reopened on Sunday. Yemeni prime minister Khalid Bahah joined the morning drop-off at the Al Baihani primary school in Aden's Crater district to celebrate the start of the new school year.
He also thanked the UAE and the Emirates Red Crescent for its work in rebuilding Aden's schools, as well as the ministry of education for its efforts in reopening them.
The Yemeni government returned to the provincial capital of Aden last month, using the city as a temporary capital while the Houthis remain in control of Sanaa. The government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia in March when the rebels and their allies advanced on Aden city.
Schools in all of Yemen's peaceful provinces – not just Aden – should resume teaching, Mr Bahah said, thanking parents who encouraged their children to go to school.
Abdurrahman Al Shoaibi, a seven-year-old student at Al Baihani, was very happy about being able to return to school.
"We do not want the war to stop our study again,” he said. "I hate the war, I need to keep studying in my favourite school.”
Another Al Baihani student, Angham Fadhel, 9, said she was very glad to be able to spend time with her classmates again. She had not seen them since fighting broke out in Aden in March, and all of the schools in the province were shut.
"All the students thank the Emirates for reconstructing our schools,” said Angham. "Now we can play, study, walk and live as before. I hope these conditions last forever and I hope that all students in Yemen can return to their schools.”
Salwa Qasem, a maths teacher at Al Baihani said the war had destroyed everything beautiful in Aden, but that the UAE was working hard to reconstruct the province.
"Today, after a long gap, the students of Aden could return to their schools,” she said. "More than 300 students returned to Al Baihani alone.”
She added that the school curriculum should now teach students to plant the love of the UAE in their hearts