SEYOUN, 12 November 2008 (IRIN) - About 180 schools were damaged by the floods that hit Hadramaut Governorate, southeastern Yemen, in October, leaving thousands of students idle, according to Nasim-Ur-Rehman, chief communications and information officer at the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Yemen.
In Tarim District Saif Abdullah, 12, is no longer able to go to school and his school books were lost when his home was destroyed. "The floods have swept away our things. We are now living in a tent," he said.
"In school, we could do a lot of things, but here you can only sit, sleep and walk around. The destruction is everywhere," he said.
Education has also ground to a halt in other flood-affected areas, including Sah, Shibam, al-Qatn, al-Sawm, Wadi Amd, Seyoun and Mukalla. The problem is compounded by the fact that hundreds of families have taken refuge in 45 schools, according to Ur-Rehman.
Jaafar Bonmi, head of Mukalla Education Office, said it had been decided to close schools until a team assessed the damage. Seventy percent of the 42 schools in Mukalla, Hadramaut's biggest district in which about 50,000 students are enrolled, were damaged, he said.
He said 10 undamaged schools were currently sheltering displaced families in the district, but that the local authorities were planning to open a proper camp for them.
The UNICEF office in Yemen said it was taking steps to get the children back to school by ordering 70 school-in-a-carton kits from a UNICEF warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark.
UNICEF's Ur-Rehman said the school packs would help provide education to 5,600 children in primary education (grades 1-5).
There were 20,000-25,000 displaced people in Hadramaut, half of whom, according to Ur-Rehman, were women and children.
Displaced reluctant to leave schools
Many of the displaced were not willing to leave the schools they were in, and live in tents.
Zainah Saeed, 48, has been staying in one such school in Mukalla, with her four daughters.
"The school has become our new home. Charitable associations are providing us with food, water and medicine. We are satisfied, although the school is never like your own home," she said, adding that she would not leave the school if asked to live in a tent or camp.
"I have daughters and I shall never leave this school," she said.
Where Zainah is now staying, there are 142 people, according to the school's deputy headmaster, Salem Hassan. "They will stay here until the camps open," he said.
Saleh Abu Bakr, 72, from Broum District, took refuge in a primary school serving around 1,000 students. "They [the authorities] said they would set up tents for us under the sun. We won't leave the school even if they bring a bulldozer," he said, adding that he was in despair as all his 12 children and grandchildren had been displaced.
A member of the local council in Mukalla who preferred anonymity said the education situation had been exacerbated by the fact that some teachers had been taken away from their normal duties to work on reviewing the electoral register.
"Five to six teachers from each school are participating in reviewing the electoral register and are no longer teaching. They will resume their work in two weeks or so," he told IRIN.