Absolute Tampering with the Education System in Yemen

Ansar Allah group (Houthis) plunges conflict into the minds of young students!
March 30, 2023

Absolute Tampering with the Education System in Yemen

Ansar Allah group (Houthis) plunges conflict into the minds of young students!
March 30, 2023

After eight years of fierce conflict in Yemen, the educational process was one of its ignitors, as the parties to the conflict, especially the Ansar Allah group (Houthis), dedicated a bulk of their battle on young minds, in an attempt to throw students into the furnace of the ongoing conflict.

In the areas controlled by the Houthi group, education has been subjected to complete demolishing in view of the dedicated practices that distorted the objectives of educational process. Schools have been turned to critical mobilization platforms, coupled with a disastrous economic deterioration that workers in education have been facing along with thousands of government sector employees since the fall of 2016 following the division of the financial sector in the country, and the resort of parties to the conflict to undertake obsessive economic policies.

As a result, many teachers converted to work in other fields outside their majors, which constituted a shortage in the teaching staff, and reduced the time of classes. What made matters worse was the direct intervention of the supervisors affiliated with the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) in distorting the educational process and introducing conflict teachings into the school curriculum, in addition to including a number of sectarian concepts that have recently sparked a lot of controversy.

The group resorted to fundamental modifications in the school curriculum, which would encourage the involvement of children in combat operations, and adopt a monolithic religious approach, which observers see as deepening sectarian division and harming the social fabric of the country.

While these amendments took on gradual steps in some Yemeni cities controlled by the group, the situation appears catastrophic in the areas that constitute a closed area under its power, such as the governorate of Sa'ada, the main stronghold of its leader. Consequently, coercive political ideas are inflicted on teachers and students, and schools are used as summer mobilization centers and venues for celebrations and events of a sectarian nature. Worse than that, schools constitute a fertile environment for recruiting children and mobilizing them to the fighting fronts.

Moreover, throughout the recent years of the conflict, the sources of the (Khuyut) platform have documented a decrease in the number of the classes by three to four daily periods in view of the reluctance of instructors to teach in government schools due to the interruption of salaries. As a result, volunteers affiliated with the group - some of whom did not complete their high school – have been brought to teach students in the primary stages, imposing tuition fees on parents of students and expelling the kids who couldn’t pay out of schools.

As for the school curriculum, Khuyut sources documented a variation in teaching methods from one area to another, but in most schools, the subject (lectures of the master) is compulsory; These handouts contain mobilization lessons quoted from the speeches of the founder of the Houthi group, Hussein Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, and comprehend concepts that urge fighting, including (Jihad).

In some schools, students are gathered in big halls, to watch filmed speeches of the group's leader, Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, on a television screen, in addition to attending some religious sermons. On other occasions, the students are asked to summarize what was mentioned in these speeches, to ensure their concentration and understanding of its content. Additionally, a religious (doctrinal) content is also imposed on the students’ tests, which are taught to them through a subject called (Culture) and some of those who call themselves cultural supervisors undertake periodic field visits to schools to deliver lectures that urge jihad.

Further, the activities and events of the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) are also an opportunity to tamper with the educational process. For instance, during the so called Martyr's Week, photos of the killed students in the battels are hung in the corridors and entrances of schools, and speeches are given by the school administration to praise them. Usually, the relatives of these child victims are summoned to attend and honored in the schoolyard, accompanied by speeches of glorification of the recruited students in the morning assembly radio to encourage other students to engage in the fighting fronts. Moreover, school administration is instructed to organize students' visits to the cemeteries designated for the battle dead, and on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday, many students are assigned and trained to act as security personal in the squares and village entrances during the celebration.

Furthermore, the morning assembly is devoted to the many occasions that the group is trying to promote as national days. Teachers, as well as students, are required to prepare school radio programs that glorify these occasions like (Martyr's Week), (Sarkha Week), (The Prophet's Birthday) and the anniversary of the killing of the group's founder, and (Ghadir Day), as well as the 21st of September revolution. At other times, and when the battles were at their most intense, one of the students is assigned to present a summary news of what they called (victories in the fronts), which are copied from Al-Masirah TV channel, the media mouthpiece of the group, and the morning assembly is to be concluded with the chanting of the slogan (Sarkha) and the oath of state.

Not only that, but the Humanitarian aid is also used as incentives of recruitment and mobilization; because more than half of the educational staff in Sa'ada are teachers who have nothing to do with the Ansar Allah group, the group uses the aid provided by the World Food Program as a means of pressure on teachers to cover the shortage in the teaching staff in schools, instead of paying their salaries, as well as to oblige them to engage in the various activities approved by the educational administration of the group and the educational supervisors with regard to school broadcasting content and organization of their events. 

Sana’a schools, too, are subject to similar irresponsible practices, including the imposition of a alternative teaching cadre of volunteers appointed by the group’s supervisory authorities, to compensate for the deficit in the teaching staff, while they are basically implementing the group’s intellectual and political agenda. These volunteers are also charged with managing school activities and events, and monitoring the behavior of other teachers and the extent of their compliance with the group’s instructions and submitting periodic reports on their performance, while some of the volunteers are assigned to teach sensitive subjects such as national and Islamic education and the Arabic language, in order to disseminate the teachings of the group among the students.

The educational staff in Sana'a, like the rest of the areas under the group's control, suffer from the interruption of their salaries. They receive no entitlements except for half a salary; that is, 40,000 Yemeni riyals ($90), which are paid to them every two or three months, in addition to an amount of 20,000 riyals that is paid monthly for a period of six months from the sums of money that are collected outside the law from students, while the contractors get an amount of 40,000 riyals per month. 

The programs and activities developed by the group vary, starting with the morning assembly, passing through the lessons that male and female students receive in the classroom, and ending with the organized event that are employed in one way or another to achieve the group's goals in obtaining the largest possible number of supporters and affiliates.
The group's lessons contained calls for fighting and glorifying it, acknowledging the superiority of the lineage of what the group calls (the family of the Prophet) and the Chiefs of Guidance over other lineages and their right to loyalty and obedience of other people. It also included expressions urging hatred and rejection of the other, and describing those who belong to other parties to the conflict or even neutrals as hypocrites, agents and mercenaries.

With regard to the topics of school radio programs, they have become confined to topics that have been circulated by the Ministry of Education, so that each occasion may get from one to two weeks of coverage. These occasion include: The birth of the Noble Prophet, the September 21 Revolution, the October 14 Revolution, the Independence Day, the anniversary of the martyr, the birth of Fatima Zahra, the Friday of Rajab, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, the anniversary of the Great Hall massacre).

The pioneers of the classes circulate the approved topics to the students, and they are not allowed to present radio programs on other topics. Also, the method of presenting the radio is usually controlled and a certain pattern is imposed; showing short plays that embody the events of the occasion and playing chants (zawamil) of the group.

In addition, there are also so-called cultural events, which are lectures, seminars, and sessions organized by supervisors of activities in schools, who are appointed by the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) or delivered by some lecturers affiliated with the group from outside, so that each classroom students attend about three sessions, seminars, or lectures every month. The subjects of these events vary between lectures related to the form of appropriate clothing and the role of women in building the family and raising the next generation in accordance with the principles of the Qur’anic process and faith identity, and the criminalization of mixing between the males and females.

Similarly, there are some other seminars dedicated to the promotion of the ideas adopted by the group, such as: the relationship of Muslims with Jews and other non-Islamic peoples, jihad (fighting with the group) with one’s life and money and its importance, upbringing the Prophet’s family, loyalty and enmity, knowledge of God and His promise and threat, intellectual conquest and soft war, the importance of motivating males among the families of female students to join the fronts, glorifying the Ansar Allah martyrs and presenting their personal biographies...etc.

Power point presentations are used, various flashes are displayed, and complete lectures of the leader of the group, Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi, stories and examples and students are forced to read parts of Hussain Badr al-Din al-Houthi's handouts (lectures) and discuss their contents... etc., in addition to holding several competitions centered on the aforementioned topics and other ones.

The activities are not limited to those organized by the group inside the school as there are other activities that are organized outside the school, including mobilization and participation in major events such as the event of the Prophet’s birthday, the March 26th anniversary, or what the group calls the National Day of Resilience, the anniversary of the group’s control of Sana’a on September 21st, and the annual martyr’s anniversary.

It is worth to mention that the group had imposed fundamental changes in the school curriculum which vary between deleting entire lessons and replacing them with other lessons, adding lessons or entire chapters that reflect the group's ideas and religious and social background.

The group's lessons contained calls for fighting and glorifying it, acknowledging the superiority of the lineage of what the group calls (the family of the Prophet) and the Chiefs of Guidance over other lineages and their right to loyalty and obedience of other people. It also included expressions urging hatred and rejection of the other, and describing those who belong to other parties to the conflict or even neutrals as hypocrites, agents and mercenaries. More generally, the group's ideas and religious and cultural backgrounds are fully reflected in the school curriculum.

Published in collaboration with Mwatana

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