ADEN -- Educators in Yemen say the Iran-backed Houthis are tampering with and changing school curricula with the aim of obliterating the Yemeni national identity and harming the social fabric.
The Yemeni Teachers Syndicate called for a general strike at all educational facilities and the suspension of administrative and educational work, starting October 29, in all areas controlled by the Houthis.
In a statement, the syndicate rejected "the dismissal and targeting of teachers and educational workers, the change and distortion of curricula and the insulting of teachers and robbery of their rights".
The syndicate's statement called on the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Education to stop the systematic exclusion and dismissal of teaching staffs, and reverse its decision to dismiss about 8,000 teachers among a total of 160,000 employees.
"This has been done on malicious, arbitrary and illegal charges, mostly for political reasons, and the ousted educators have been replaced with Houthi loyalists," the statement said.
Violations against teachers
"The Houthis have used the education process to serve the Iranian sectarian ideology and in service of the Houthis' alleged right to hold the reins of power," said Ministry of Human Rights Sanaa branch director Fahmi al-Zubeiri.
"We support the syndicate's announcement of the strike, regardless of its results, as a public and responsible rejection of the erosion of education curricula for all grades," he told Al-Mashareq.
Al-Zubeiri said the Houthis are targeting the education system, with more than 200 modifications to the original curriculum, primarily "because it will ensure voluntary loyalty to [the militia] by the next generation".
This "would make it easier to manage and orient the next generation ideologically to serve Iran and the interests of Iran's proxies in Yemen".
Violations committed against teachers since the Houthis took control of Sanaa and other provinces include "arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, arrest and killing, in addition to seizing their salaries", he said.
Teachers have been forced to work without pay under pressure of being replaced, al-Zubeiri said.
The Houthis "forced teachers to take sectarian courses, and introduced the Iranian rallying cry to the morning lineup, and are forcing schools to revive sectarian activities that serve their agenda", he said.
Deputy Minister of Information Osama al-Sharmi said the announced teachers' strike "stands up to the Houthis' practices that seek to pull the provinces under their control towards the Iranian culture".
The strike will "stir the stagnant waters in Sanaa" to create awareness against negative Houthi practices, he said.
Al-Sharmi noted that some parents of students in Houthi-controlled areas refrained from sending their children to school "to spare them from this false mobilisation that the Houthis seek to spread".
A number of parents expressed their rejection of the indoctrination of their children by the Houthis.
Majali Hassan, who has three school-age children, said his children have rejected the information they are being fed, which contradicts what they learned in the first years of their schooling.
Hassan said he now spends more time with his children to review their lessons with them, and to explain that "this information that the Houthis introduced into the curricula is incorrect".
"This is what their mother and I are doing to correct the misconceptions," he said.
Mohammed Abdullah, whose daughter attends Arwa secondary school in Sanaa administrative district and son attends third grade in al-Oula primary school, said he is making a great effort to get his son "to ignore the Houthi additions to the curriculum".
His daughter, who is in her third year of secondary school, "is aware of their culture and spontaneously rejects these ideas and discusses them with me in order to refute them".
A war of a different kind
"We encourage and adopt this statement because it holds the Houthis legally responsible for the new changes to the curricula," said Abdullah al-Bazli, head of the teachers' syndicate in Marib province of the strike statement.
Al-Bazli told Al-Mashareq the Houthis' tampering with the curricula is "a war of a different kind that the Iran-affiliated Houthis engage in, and it is the most dangerous because it threatens Yemen's present and future".
Replacing the curricula with lesson plans loaded with sectarianism "is an indication that the Houthis are preparing for a long-term war against Yemenis", said political analyst Faisal Ahmed.
The purpose of the Houthis' tampering with the curricula is "to use children and school students in general as a means to ignite wars", he said.
Ahmed said the Houthis' war against education is "a war with ideological, political, social and economic aims for the purpose of tearing the national social fabric for the benefit of the Iranian project in the region".