Feature: Teachers' strike breaks off Yemeni students' return to school as COVID-19 slows down

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ADEN, Yemen, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of students should have returned to their classes in the government-controlled areas in the south of Yemen where the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down.

However, a strike by teachers demanding a pay rise, along with the political disagreements between the parties, broke off the planned process for students.

"Our schools are without teachers and we, as students, decided to stay at home because no one will teach us there," said Najib Ahmed, a high school student in the southern port city of Aden.

"We are missing the classes," he added.

A few number of students returned to their schools in Aden's neighborhood of Mansourah, only to find empty classrooms.

"I fully prepared myself and returned to school but found my classes without teachers and none of my classmates was there," said Alaa Mohsen, an Aden-based student.

However, a high school teacher named Khaled Raad said it's "unfair" to go back and teach with such a low salary.

"I'm working as bus driver because my monthly salary as a teacher is not sufficient to buy even the basic needs for my family members," Raad complained.

Following several months of suspension because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yemeni Ministry of Education announced on Sunday the cautious and progressive resumption of public education that starts from high schools.

The Ministry published special programs to help students catch up on their missed classes and encourage them to return to school.

However, some parents in Aden remain worried about the lack of effective precautionary measures against COVID-19 infection at the crowded schools.

"In Yemen, we used to have schools without water and electricity, so how can we install handwashing basins? Also, no one can afford to buy soap or face masks throughout the whole year," said Bassim Ali, a father of two children in Aden.

"Most of the families are poor and haven't got paid for several months, so we can't buy daily face masks for children and it's better to remain at home," the father added.

The Yemeni government has so far confirmed 1,989 coronavirus cases in the areas under its control, including 573 deaths.

The Houthis aligned with Iran launched a large military campaign and seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014, forcing Yemen's internationally-recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to flee to the southern port city of Aden.

Then, the pro-Houthi forces backed by armored vehicles attacked Aden, forcing Hadi to escape again to neighboring Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily and began pounding the Houthi-controlled Sanaa in March 2015, in response to an official request from Hadi to protect Yemen against Iran's influence.

Three-quarters of the Yemenis, or more than 22 million people, urgently require humanitarian assistance, including 8.4 million who struggle to find their next meal. Enditem

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