A school in the southwest of Yemen is implementing music lessons, in the hope of easing the stress of children living within the community.
Around four years ago, Al Nawras school in Taez was forced to close due to the country’s ongoing war intensifying.
Upon it’s reopening, the principal Shehabeddine Al-Sharabi, recognised a feeling of unease amongst the pupils.
"The psychological state of the students was very difficult when we reopened here,” he told AFP. “After all the shelling, bombing and fighting.”
Introducing music classes
The teachers then decided to make music lessons a main part of the curriculum, borrowing instruments from a nearby university and putting together a feel-good repertoire of songs.
Children chant together to Arabic classics from Umm Kulthum and Fairuz. They also sing tunes in English, which gives them the opportunity of learning a new language.
Relatively quickly, teacher Abir Al-Sharabi noticed that her students had begun to better process their feelings.
“[Music] helps with their wellbeing and in their life that they’re living - the war, the pain that they have inside - they can express it when singing it,” she said.
How can music help ease war trauma?
Indeed, musical education is believed to help lessen the psychological effects of war in children, which may include: depression, problems with memory development and disruptive behaviour, which can be carried into adulthood.
In 2014, the American Psychological Association analysed children from postwar Kosovo who took part in a musical programme.
The study found that children’s cognitive and behavioural health improved and, with their attention diverted by music, they were quicker to focus and learn.
The longer the students’ exposure to music, the lesser their PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the study found.
In settings like Al Nawras School, group musical exercises serve two purposes. Whilst the music uplifts and provides positivity, friends and teachers also yield a safe and supportive environment.
The students themselves are feeling of the benefits of playing an instrument.
“Whenever I feel sad or uncomfortable, I play music,” piano-enthusiast Nazira Al-Jaafari.
Two million Yemeni children absent from school
Unfortunately, not all children in Yemen are able to find comfort and psychological support at school.
According to UNICEF, due to the country’s ongoing conflict, out of a population of 7 million school-aged children, an estimated 2 million are not attending regular classes.
Moreover, one in every five schools can no longer be used due to conflict.
As they chant the lyrics of, “education is my weapon”, the Yemeni children of Al Nawras school are the sound of a new generation and, through therapy of a musical kind, their teachers are hopeful they’ll continue to strike the right chord.
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