A young Ethiopian girl sings to her classmates, who are huddled together on a straw mat on the sandy ground of a refugee camp in neighboring Sudan.
Sheltered from the hot afternoon sun in a makeshift classroom built of wood and straw, the children sing in unison.
When they are done, they laugh, bursting into loud applause, with nods of approval from their teacher, Bereket Weldgebriel.
“Education is the light of the world,” says Bereket, a 35-year-old English and music teacher.
He and the children in his class are among some 50,000 people who fled their homes after the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military operation against forces in the northern Tigray region on November 4.
They have found refuge in a series of camps along the Sudanese border, where they live in tents and straw huts.
According to the United Nations, 45 percent of refugees are children.
“When I arrived here my heart was broken,” says Bereket, a graduate of the Ethiopian Academy of Music in Addis Ababa who ran an English-language academy and taught at a public school in the Tigrayan town of Humera.
Now he and his colleagues at Um Rakuba Temporary School have found meaning in their new life.
“If we teach these kids, they’ll be happy,” Bereket says. “If children have an education, they can solve their problems.”
Teklebrham Giday, 32, who was also a teacher in Humera, is the principal of Um Rakuba school, Site One.
He says there are several other makeshift schools in the camps and his school has so far registered 722 students in grades one to ten.
With five makeshift classrooms to protect children from the elements, he and his team provide basic education for students to suit their class.
“We teach basic subjects: English, our national Amharic language, basic sciences and, for recreation, … sports, music and the arts,” explains the head of the school, adding that the children also study tigrinya, the tongue of the tiger.
“We just left out all the politics,” he says. “Many people have been killed in Tigray for political reasons.”
Among the children who attend classes at the temporary school is Emmanuel Thagakiros, a 10-year-old boy wearing a green T-shirt and shorts.
He says his favorite subject is math. “I want to learn to be happy and find a job to help my parents,” he adds shyly.
His 36-year-old mother, Askwal Hagos, says Emmanuel has had frequent nightmares since they fled their home three weeks ago.
“Even now he’s panicking. At night, he panics when he dreams of the corpses he has seen, ”says Askwal, who has two other children.
When her son is about to go to school in the morning, she says to him: “No one here will kill you. No one will hurt you.