Houthis attempt to prescribe student 'behaviour'

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni children gather on the grounds of a school in Sanaa during recess on September 16th, at the start of the new academic year. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) recently modified school curricula in areas under their control to include an evaluation of student "behaviour", Yemeni observers and educators tell Al-Mashareq.

This evaluates students based on their participation in activities organised by the militia, they explained, describing it as an attempt to subvert the education process in service of the Houthis' agenda.

The Houthi-controlled Ministry of Education on December 17th issued a decision to introduce "behaviour" to both primary and secondary school curricula, stipulating that students are required to achieve a passing grade in the subject.

The Houthis have "tampered" with the educational system "and stripped schools of their essential mission and objective of building an educated and enlightened generation", said the principal of a private school in southern Sanaa.

The introduction of "behaviour" into the curricula without clear standards will pressure students to support the Houthis and their backer, Iran, the principal told Al-Mashareq, asking that his name not be used.

This is a clear attempt on the part of the Houthis to subvert the education system and build "an army of loyalists", he added.

In the circular they issued, the Houthis assigned classroom teachers and others to oversee the task of evaluating the students' "behaviour" proficiency levels in co-ordination with other teachers, he said.

"School activities both inside and outside the classroom are conducted only under the supervision of the militia's members in the education offices across all school districts," he noted.

This places pressure on students and indoctrinates them with the Houthis' ideology, the principal said.

'Brainwashing of students'

The new subject focuses on students' behaviour and participation in school events and activities that are carried out per the Houthis' orders, said Sinaa Ahmad, a ninth grade supervisor at a private school.

The Houthis have assigned delegates in every classroom of every school, she told Al-Mashareq, noting that some students are members of the militia.

"Students are thus forced to comply with the Houthis' activities and ideas, which are not compatible with the nature and culture of the Yemeni people," she said.

Ahmad noted that the compulsory imposition of the new subject amounts to "brainwashing of students with sectarian ideology".

The addition of "behaviour" to the curricula is "an organised effort aimed at controlling education by giving school supervisors the power to decide the success and failure of whomever they want, based on affiliation with the group and acceptance of its ideas", said political researcher Nabil al-Bakiri.

"What is most dangerous about the addition of this subject is the issue of defining what behaviour is acceptable and what is not, according to the group's system and objectives," al-Bakiri told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthis have "destroyed the educational system and its institutions", political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

The addition of "behaviour" as a subject and a prerequisite for passing to the next grade level "is a means to pressure students and force them to comply" with the Houthis' teachings and ideology, he said.

The new requirement will be used to force students and their families who reject the Houthis to accept the militia's ideology, al-Jalil said.

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