THE sound of music fills the halls at a school in Yemen's Taez, where little Nazira aI-Juafari sits at a keyboard as a teacher takes her through the notes.

''I love music,'' said Juafari, a pupil at the AI-Nawras school tutors are trying to help students temporarily forget the ongoing war. ''Whenever I feel sad or uncomfortable,'' I play music.

She has built up an eclectic repertoire, including happy birthday and cult songs by Arab icons  Faruz and Umm Kalthoum.

''I just hope that Yemin will win this war,'' she said before exhaling deeply, then smiling and adding: ''And that we can live a new life.''

Taez, a city in the southwestern Yemeni highlands, was once known for its coffee beans, grown at high elevation and exported through the famed port of Mokha.

Today, the city is home to some of the most intense fighting in a war between Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi and rebels and and rival government forces allied with a regional military coalition led by powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations has urged both parties to open humanitarian corridors to besieged Taez, where state troops are embedded inside city limits - surrounded by rebel forces.

The three-story AI-Nawras school was hit in 2015-16, right after Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis.

When it reopened its doors, walls still pock-marked with bullet holes, educators decided to expand the music programme, making it a part of the core curriculum alongside maths and Arabic, with the hope that it would restore joy to the students days.

The psychological state of the students was very difficult when we reopened here, after all the shelling and bombing and fighting,'' said principal Shehaddine aI-Sharabi.

The head of a university in neighboring Mokha recommended music, locating instruments at Ai-Nawras free of charge.

''Music is not an extra-curricular activity here. We can see how it impacts our students, how they are more responsive through music, It yields purely positive revenue,'' Sharabi said. 

''Education is my weapon" : While the lessons are not part of a formal mental health programme, music therapy has been used around the world to support those who have experienced trauma.

And in the humble classrooms of AI-Nawras, dozens of boys and girls find daily, albeit temporary, reprieve from atrocities in a country the U.N. says is home to world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Smiling and tapping on their desks, a class of  bright-eyes students sing, in English. ''My face, my face, this is my nose''.

In a class later in the day, slightly older children sing : ''Education is a weapon''.

But around two million Yemeni children are missing out on school, with half a million dropping out since 2015, according to UN figures published last March. [Agencies]


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