Roua Ahmed’s classes ended abruptly when her school in Yemen was bombed, but she still clings to her dream of getting an education.
She is one of hundreds of thousands of young Yemenis forced out of school since fighting escalated with a Saudi-led intervention against Shiite Huthi rebels two years ago.
The war has since killed around 7,700 people, including nearly 1,550 children, and shut down hundreds of schools.
After hers was bombed, Roua sought out classes at a mosque in her home city of Taez. But as clashes escalated, her family saw little choice but to flee.
Braving sniper fire, they walked 10 kilometres (six miles) before finding a taxi to the capital.
“I tried to register myself at a school here, but my application was rejected because the classes are overcrowded,” Roua said.
“My education has stopped because of the war. I don’t know what I did wrong – I didn’t do anything.”
The slender 12-year-old, who loves painting and dreams of becoming a teacher, is one of 3.5 million Yemeni children out of school, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.
The fighting has halted the education of nearly two million children on top of the 1.6 million already out of school before the conflict, it said.
“If Yemen’s current generation misses out on school, the long-term consequences will be another generation that is likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence,” it warned in a November report.
As a result, “an entire generation of children risk losing out on their future,” said Shabia Mantoo, Yemen spokeswoman for the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.
Huthi rebels seized control of Yemen’s capital in September 2014 and went on to expand their clout across the country.
As they closed in on Aden-based President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, forcing him into exile, the Arab coalition launched a military operation in his defence on March 26, 2015.
UNICEF has since counted 212 direct attacks on schools, including air strikes that killed pupils.
The fighting has put 1,640 Yemeni schools out of service, with 1,470 destroyed or damaged and others converted into refugee shelters or barracks for fighters, it said.
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