The Houthis (Ansarallah) recently suspended regular classes at schools in areas under their control for a month, replacing them with activities that sought to indoctrinate students and groom them for recruitment, Yemeni activists said.
The Iran-backed militia issued a circular to the principals of all Sanaa schools via the Ministry of Education, which is under its control, to stop classes for a month, beginning with "Martyr's Day" on February 5th.
In place of regular lessons, schools were asked to hold "cultural programmes and activities" to celebrate the annual event, which has been used in recent years to raise funds and public sympathy for the militia.
Principals were asked to document their participation by submitting full reports on these activities, complete with photos and videos, to the Houthis.
"The danger of this move is that it aims to prepare students for recruitment through focusing on the martyr, his value, his dignity and heroism, to get the students to attach perceived importance to the martyr," lawyer and human rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman told Al-Mashareq.
This event and others like it designed to celebrate martyrs disrupt the education process and encourage children to see these fighters as fallen heroes, which in turn motivates them to join the battle themselves, he said.
Losses in the Houthis' ranks
"In three years of fighting, the Houthi militia lost many of its fighters," political analyst Rashad al-Sharaabi told Al-Mashareq.
Seeing its ranks depleted by injury and loss, as well as by the highly publicised split with the General People's Congress of slain Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the militia has engaged in forced recruitment, he said.
The militia first turned to rural districts and villages for new recruits to bolster its numbers, he said, and finally to schools.
"There is a clear ideological brainwashing process taking place targeting youth and children," al-Sharaabi said.
In these difficult economic times, where job opportunities are scarce, the Houthis have been offering incentives to young people along with a brainwashing process that grooms them for recruitment, he said.
"The Month of the Martyr events are part of the brainwashing process," al-Sharaabi noted.
'Inundated with propaganda'
"The martyr's events held by the Houthis subject school students to ideological brainwashing through several means," said activist Musa al-Nimrani.
In addition to being inundated with propaganda via local media, the militia influences students through lectures delivered by militia-affiliated teachers, some of whom were employed specifically for this purpose, he told Al-Mashareq.
"We have seen many photographs of child fighters, some of whom appeared on militia-affiliated media channels after undergoing brainwashing, while others were thrust into battle by the militia and were killed or captured," he said.
"Many remain on the front lines," he added.
"Unfortunately, children are an easy target for recruitment and an appealing target for the militia, because the child fighter does not require many resources to recruit," al-Nimrani said.