efe-epaSana'a

While traditional Koran schools may have fallen out of favor in Yemen over the past half a century or so due to the adoption of more modern education methods, some teachers in the capital are offering pupils a chance to learn Classical Arabic fast within mosques during Ramadan, as documented by an epa-efe journalist in images released Thursday.

For the past seven years, a school at the Great Mosque in the Old City of Sana'a has been using the Muslim fasting month to teach children spelling and pronunciation in Classical Arabic, teacher Mohamed Ali al-Tayer told EFE.

"Koran schools have been extinct for 50 years, we're trying to revive them," he said.

It takes only about a month, according to al-Tayer, for a child to learn to read Classical Arabic; the language used in literature and the media, but not colloquially in everyday life.

A recent class in the courtyard of the Great Mosque saw a group of 14 girls and three boys sitting around a mat in front of al-Tayer, who used a stick to point at words from the Koran written on a whiteboard.

From time to time, a child would stand up and pronounce the letters, before reading out whole words. The other students would repeat the words afterwards.

Then the teacher wrote a verse from the Koran, before choosing another child to stand up and read.

By offering classes during Ramadan, teachers have been able to revive "katatib," the schools that teach Arabic in a traditional way that had practically disappeared in Yemen, using the Muslim holy book as a learning resource.

Hani al-Sawadi, a civil servant whose daughters are enrolled in classes, said there had been an improvement in the children's dexterity within a week.

"There's a big difference between the study of Arabic in the modern education system and Koran schools, where the language is taught in great depth," the civil servant told EFE.

Families in Sana'a have never been much interested in sending their daughters to schools to learn the Koran, but nowadays, most of the students are female.

Yemen has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the Arab world, particularly among women.

According to data from the United Nations Population Fund from 2010 _ before the conflict broke out _ 65 percent of women and 27 percent of men were illiterate at that time.

Yemenis have been attending such classes in order to be able to read the Koran, and despite the ongoing war, encourage their children to go in order to boost their reading skills.