Khaled, a fresh Yemeni elementary student, sits heavy with hands crossed and refuses heading to school, where he says Houthis have instilled a “cry and death” culture, the very same which had his sister locked up in detention for refusing to chant ahead Houthi slogans during morning assembly.
“Every nonconformist student was asked to pay 100 Yemeni rials (around 20 cents),” Khaled’s mom told Asharq Al-Awsat while recalling that a first grader was sent to detention and received a beating for failing to pay the fine ordered. The young girl had only had 30 Yemeni rials on her she was saving up for breakfast.
Similarly, Houthi militias stormed a girls' school in Sanaa to force students to shout slogans. Girls who refused to chant were intimidated by the militants firing live rounds in the school yards and threatening the children with imprisonment, investigation, and kidnappings.
According to UNICEF, the war in Yemen has resulted in shutting down the doors of more than 3,584 schools. All education facilities were transformed into military barracks and weapon depots, leaving nearly 4.5 million Yemeni children deprived of education.
Heaps of warnings were sounded off by global, regional and local organizations about the deterioration of education in Yemen as Houthis continue to exercise Iran-inspired sectarian indoctrination in schools they run.
Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF spokesperson, has particularly warned of the dangers looming over the future of Yemeni children in the war-ridden country, saying that the education system is teetering on the brink of total collapse.
Sanaa school teacher, Siham Al Hrazi, said “Houthis have barred bazars and are enforcing religious extravaganzas and Khomeini-inspired slogans during morning assemblies.”
Students, lined up in schoolyards, are forced to watch videos showing torment, violence and bloodshed on big screens, Hrazi added while calling to shelter the innocence of Yemeni children from the Houthis’ sect-rife ideology.
Shockingly, Houthis have cancelled all sports and art classes and has reshaped curricula in a way designed to aid its agenda and create more cannon fodder to recruit and deploy to battlefronts. All schools in Houthi-run territory, short and simple, have been flooded with and coerced into adopting coup-styled education material.
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has described the Houthis’ takeover of the school education systems as a broad brainwashing scheme conducted on a large-scale with very serious long-term negative impact.
Houthis have gone beyond spreading the group’s ideological schoolbooks and practices to exploit unwitting children into recruitment. Ailed by war and a deteriorated economy, starved Yemeni children are often tempted by Houthi militants offering food aid at a time the country risks free-falling into devastating famine.
“After receiving a food basket, the student’s name and phone contact are registered on a list handled by Hotuhis,” a mother in Sanaa, who goes by Um Abdallah, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Soon after, according to Um Abdallah, contacts added to WhatsApp groups where sectarian broadcasts, slogans and messages are sent regularly to influence the readership in preparation for future recruitment.