Houthis privatise select schools for revenue, propaganda

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni pupils in Sanaa on the first day of the school year on October 17th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) have reportedly designated a number of Sanaa public schools for privatisation to boost their revenue.

Hussein al-Houthi, the militia leader's brother and education minister in the Houthi government, designated last month 20 public schools in the capital to start operating as private or community-based schools and charging high tuition fees.

These schools, supported and funded by community members, "will provide an outstanding education," Waleed Ali of the Education Office in Amanat Sanaa told Al-Mashareq.

Yemeni officials and experts, however, cautioned that this move is "a form of corruption" and only serves to further spread the influence of the Houthis, and their sponsor the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in Yemen.

Public buildings used for private schools

Ali said the ministry has designated two schools in each district of Sanaa, a total of 20 schools, to operate privately.

"Private school classes will be held in the evening, while public schools will continue to provide free education during the day," he said. "Private school teachers will be picked among the most competent, as education in those schools is not free."

Community-based schools will charge 65,000 riyals ($260) for first to sixth grade education, 85,000 riyals ($340) for seventh to ninth grade students and 95,000 riyals ($380) for secondary school, according to Ali.

Although the new school year started on October 17th in Houthi-controlled areas, the community-based schools are still enrolling students and making preparations for the 2020-21 school year.

To familiarise the public with the concept, Houthi-affiliated activists have campaigned for private schools using social media, brochures and canvassing on the streets.

Yemen's Private Schools Syndicate official Mohammed al-Maqtari told Al-Mashareq the use of public school buildings for private education "is a form of corruption since it exploits buildings the government constructed with public funds, without allocating revenue to the state".

Part of the proceeds will go to paying teachers' salaries in these schools and another part will go to covering operational expenses, he said. "But the bulk will go to the Houthis to finance their projects".

Houthi schools to teach 'IRGC agenda'

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani warned the public about the "catastrophic consequences of Houthi tampering with the education system."

Al-Eryani said the militia group, supported by IRGC, is introducing private schools to turn them into propaganda centres for the IRGC's agenda.

Messaging in these schools will be extremist, advocating for chaos and violence in Yemen and the region, he said.

The minister also commented on how Houthis' efforts to eliminate free education and "charging tuition to finance war" is an act to brainwash students and teach them falsified history.

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq the continued act of destroying education is a consequence of the Houthi coup.

Over 3,500 schools in Yemen were totally or partially destroyed by Houthi shelling or being used as weapons depots, he said.

Over two million students have been unable to attend school because of the war in Yemen, he said. The Houthis are exploiting the situation to send those children to the frontline by enticing their parents with regular monthly salaries.

Meanwhile, most teachers have not been paid and the financial pressure they endure has made it difficult for them to carry out their teaching responsibilities.

Arafat Mohammed, a Yemeni teacher in Sanaa, told Al-Mashareq the Houthis used the funding allocated for education and provided by international organisations to develop modified curricula that serve their IRGC-backed agenda.

Mohammed said teachers like him would not be allowed to teach at the new community-based schools, because the Houthis prefer teachers who serve their propaganda and foster sectarianism and divisive, non-tolerant ideas.

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