Yemeni officials and educators have expressed deep concern about the erosion of the education system in areas under the control of the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), while a new report documents the militia's violations.
The militia has been attempting to subvert the system by abusing the rights of educators, students and schools, they said.
According to a new report issued by the Sanaa Human Rights Office, ''Education Between Erosion and Sectarianisation'', the Houthis violated the education process 8,140 times between October 5th, 2019, and October 4th, 2020.
The Sanaa Human Rights Office is currently based in Marib.
The violations documented in the report include everything from extra-judicial killings and death under torture to the dismissal and oppressive treatment of teachers, change of curricula and privatisation of schools.
The report documents the militia's plunder of salaries and humanitarian aid, its recruitment of children in schools, its culpability in various forms of child abuse and its conduct and promotion of sectarian events and activities in schools.
Among the crimes documented were four extrajudicial killings, five deaths under torture, and 158 cases of physical assault and death threats.
Separately, the monitoring unit documented 56 other cases of injuries sustained by educators during the reporting period.
The report also recorded 49 cases of forcible disappearance, and 48 cases of torture in the militia's prisons, in addition to 157 cases of abduction of both male and female teachers from educational institutions.
Erosion of educational system
According to the report, the Houthis have placed 35 educators under house arrest, and placed 23 educators on trial for political reasons, handing down death sentences in all cases.
The report also recorded 1,943 cases of oppressive treatment and dismissal of teaching staff who were opposed to the Houthis, and 210 cases of restriction of freedom of movement.
It recorded 194 cases of intrusions into educational facilities, including public schools, private schools and regional education administration offices, as well as Qur'an schools and training institutes.
It also recorded 523 cases of recruitment of underage children to serve in the ranks of the militia, 826 cases of plunder of salaries and food aid allocated for teachers, and 146 cases of violations against private schools.
Other violations included preventing teachers from engaging in peaceful demonstrations, conducting sectarian events with teachers and students forced to attend, changes to the civics curricula and incitement to violence.
The Houthis have the educational system in their sights because it stands in opposition to their goals, said Fahmi al-Zubairi, director general of Human Rights in the Sanaa administrative district.
"From the very beginning, after they seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and other provinces, the Houthis have deliberately eroded the education system in a manner that is provocative to the Yemeni people," he told Al-Mashareq.
This began with the appointment of Yahya al-Houthi as Minister of Education, "despite the fact that he does not have any scientific or academic qualifications", al-Zubairi said.
The Houthis also have forced teachers and students to attend courses and activities geared towards the recruitment of fighters, he said.
They used schools and educational institutions as a platform for mobilisation, he added, and sought to hollow out and militarise academic institutions.
Teachers driven out of profession
The educational system has been diminished as a consequence of Houthi directives "that focus mainly on the group's activities and not the education process", said Ashwaq Mohammad, vice principal of a Sanaa private school.
Teachers have been driven out of the profession out of fear for their safety in light of the Houthis' actions and violations, she added.
"Some of them tried to search for jobs in government-controlled areas, while others left the teaching profession completely and sought to leave the country," she said, while others took any available jobs, including menial work.
The severance of salaries for government employees contributed to this trend, Mohammad said.
"Schools have been emptied of professional and experienced teachers, with few exceptions, and this has had an impact on the quality of education, because the teacher is an essential pillar for the success of the education process," she said.
Schoolteacher Ibtisam Abdel Aziz told Al-Mashareq she left the public school system because of the severance of salaries.
She said that a contributing factor to her decision to leave was that no standards were being applied in the schools, which she said were being run according to the whim of the Houthis.
"The situation in private schools is not any better, but they have tried to strike a balance between the Houthis' demands and giving attention to education," Abdel Aziz said.
These schools are trying to provide the best education they can, "despite the great pressures they are facing", she added.