Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Freedoms said that the educational process in Yemen is witnessing a continuous deficit and deterioration due to the war and the escalation of political and sectarian polarization, stressing the need for the international community to assume its legal and humanitarian responsibilities towards Yemenis and to give children the full opportunity to obtain their right to education away from internal conflicts and hate and racial discrimination discourses.
In a situation paper issued on the occasion of the International Day of Education, January 24 of each year, the organization affirmed that the Yemeni educational process, which includes "educational institutions, students and teachers" in Yemen, has declined in some regions, and disrupted in others. Hundreds of students are studying in the open, and others are attending schools that are destroyed or threatened with collapse at any moment; due to the Coalition air strikes or the indiscriminate bombing of the Houthis militia. On the other hand, many teachers have left the teaching profession due to the suspension of salaries, and searching for new source of income to meet their needs, while others were forced to join the fighting fronts, especially the southern borders. All these factors have deprived the education in Yemen of the ideal environment for students to receive their education, free from political influences, polarization and sectarian indoctrination.
SAM indicated to worrying numbers about the violations that affected the educational process and quality in Yemen, in past areas, especially the areas under the control of the Houthi militia, where more than 950 violations were recorded, such as imposing taxes on students, raiding schools, turning schools into military barracks, in addition to looting and closing schools and changing the names of schools with the names of religious symbols of the Houthi group.
SAM organization also confirmed that the war has severely impacted the education infrastructure, such as schools, and administrative facilities. According to the UNICEF report on education in Yemen, more than 2,500 schools are not operating in Yemen, as two-thirds of them have been destroyed due to violence, while 27% of educational institutions have closed and 7% are used for military purposes or places of shelter for the displaced. UNICEF attributed this destruction to lack of respect of the parties to the conflict for educational facilities, as it contributed directly and indirectly, through the air strikes, or by indiscriminate bombing by the Houthis that destroyed schools or by turning them into military barracks and weapons stores.
SAM documented during the years 2017, 2018, 2019, grave violations of the right to education, most notably the violation of the right to choose appropriate curricula. As the Houthi militia politicized education and stained the curricula and educational programs with its doctrine and ideology, which seek to glorify the group’s ideology and mobilize to fight and abolish the other, which posed a great danger to social coherence in Yemen. SAM monitored the dissemination of the political slogans of the Houthi militia to schools, and teach students Houthis’ chants in addition to holding religious activities and events with controversial ideological orientations, which contribute to influencing students and attracting them to the battlefields. In this regard, the organization also documented visits of Houthis officials to public schools, to deliver lectures with sectarian propaganda contents in favor of the militia, and promote its military victories, in addition to attacking its opponents who are considered, in those lectures as agents of (America and Israel). Furthermore, the "Houthi loyalists" carry out activities inside the school in areas under the militia's control, to influence their colleagues, and attract them to their extremist ideas, or to join the fighting fronts. The organization found that a large number of students who joined the summer centers or the Houthi fighting fronts, were enticed by their colleagues who had received special courses on methods and means of recruitment, and were provided with audio-visual materials appropriate for the ages of the targeted students.
The organization confirmed that the changes that Houthis made in the school curricula in the areas under its control and imposing their ideology contribute to mobilizing children with an extremist combat ideology, making them docile, and turning them into fuel for this war
According to the Organization, Houthis stormed more than 300 schools, especially in Sana’a, Dhamar and Amran, in addition to organizing sectarian events without obtaining permission or approval from the school administration.
According to testimonies collected by the organization’s research team, one of the teachers stated that “all private schools’ teachers were compelled to attend sectarian courses, especially the teachers of the Holy Qur’an and Islamic Education. The school, whose teachers did not attend, threatened with financial fines of up to three hundred thousand rials, and threatened to close the school.” The teacher who was forced to attend the course adds that “more than seventy teachers of the Holy Qur’an and Islamic Education subjects, attended the courses and received lessons that included myths and violations of the right to education and the right to religion, as the lecturer denies many religious teachings. Also, the trainees were not allowed to play the Quran verses with the voice of any Saudi reader, and they claim that they are the holders of the Message and they must teach the students the love of jihad, and other stuffs".
SAM asserted that the prevalence of recruitment among students has prompted many parents to either prevent their children from going to schools or move them to safer areas such as villages or cities that are not under the control of the Houthi militia, which affected them psychologically, and pushed them to engage in an insecure job market to provide for his financial needs or to support their displaced family.
SAM obtained another testimony that confirms Houthi’s interventions in the religious curricula. “One of the Houthi educational directors threatened the religion teacher because the students read Surat Al-Fatihah and concluded it by saying the word “Amen”, threatening her that he will report her to Ansar Allah office. These interventions also included modifications in the school curricula in general and the curricula for the elementary school students in particular, especially the subjects of the Qur’an, Islamic education and history.
In a related context, SAM indicated that the suspension of the salaries of thousands of teachers has greatly contributed to the deterioration of education significantly, and directly affected the quality of education, as more than 60% of the teaching staff are without salaries, and more than 70% of schools are threatened to stop, especially in the densely populated areas such as Taiz, Ibb, Hodiedah, Hajjah, Sana'a, Dhamar, Raimah and Amran. The dispute over controlling the central bank and revenues generating institutions also contributed to creating a problem in the salary disbursement process, which prompted many teachers to leave schools and search for work to support their families. In addition to the Houthi militia’s intentional suspension of salaries in public schools, and dismissal of absentees and replace them with others who are loyal to them.
Abdel Nasser, 50 years, teacher in Al- Qahera district in Taiz city, stated that due to the suspension of salaries, the ongoing war and siege, the owner of the house forced him to leave it due to his inability to pay the rents. He went to his village to work in construction, then returned to the city leaving his family in the village.
Also, the 40-year-old teacher, Wael, who was an employee in the Education Office, was forced to quit his job and had to work as street vendor, in order to sustain his family, due to the salary suspension policy that the Houthi group followed against its opponents.
Teacher Ali, 42 years, said: "I was a school deputy principal, and I am now a displaced person from Al-Jarahi district in Hodiedah Governorate. I have eleven children. After the militia harassments and my salary was cut off, I fled and worked in selling figs, then in construction, and I worked in last Ramadan in selling “al-Makhlaatah and sambuusa”, but unfortunately, due to the living conditions of people in Taiz governorate, I lost the capital that I borrowed from my friends. I want to work to provide a decent living for my children and rent a house and shelter them for my children.”
The organization said that during the past three years of the Houthi militia’s control of power in Sanaa, it has made major changes in the education sector, and excluded many qualified staff who are not loyal to them, and replaced them with members loyal to them, which led to a decline in the education level of the largest number of students in addition to the change of the curricula and introducing a sectarian discourse into the school curriculum, and imposed of repeating the Houthis chant that prompted many parents to refrain from sending their children to schools, fearing the possibility of recruiting them and most likely changing their religious beliefs.
In addition, internal displacement and forced displacement forced many students to dropout of schools due to the unfavorable conditions and the shortage of schools in the areas they moved to. Military operations, including indiscriminate shelling by the coalition forces, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and indiscriminate bombing by the Houthi militia, also damaged large number of schools, and other schools were turned into shelters for the displaced, and some schools were used as prisons or military sites.
It is noteworthy here that the Houthi militia imposes fees on students under the pretext of supporting the educational process. These amounts range from one hundred to one thousand riyals, from which teachers’ salaries are paid, and part of them goes to support fighters on the fronts, prompting some parents to prevent their children from going to these schools either because of their inability to pay this contribution, or their unwillingness to pay money that could be used to finance combat operations. The Houthis benefit from the disruption of the educational process in some rural areas, as this gives them an opportunity to turn dropped out students into fighters with small amounts of money.
Many teachers have also been arrested, especially the head of the Teachers Syndicate in the capital, Sanaa, Khaled Hassan Jaber Al-Qadimi, which has prompted hundreds of teachers to flee from their areas of residence and search for a safer heaven, whether inside or outside Yemen, which contributed to the deterioration of the educational process significantly.
Sam affirms that the right to education is one of the basic rights guaranteed by all international and regional conventions and treaties. Several articles have been mentioned in this in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, And other references of international law and human rights law. noting that the importance of the right to education lies in the role of the education in empowering and strengthening other rights, as Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed that “everyone has the right to education, and education must be provided free of charge at least in its primary and basic stages, and basic education shall be mandatory. Technical and vocational education shall be available to the public." The Universal Declaration also affirms that "the right to education must strive to the development of the individual, and that it promotes understanding, tolerance and fraternity among all nations and all groups." It also adds in the third paragraph of the same article that “parents have priority in choosing the type of education that is offered to their children, given that freedom of education is the right of every human being subject to other fundamental freedoms in the state in which the individual lives in order to protect human rights and achieve the general interest of the people.
The UN International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights of 1966 also affirmed the right to education, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with attention given to linking the process of education to development, as Article 13 of the Covenant stipulates: “States parties recognize In this covenant, everyone has the right to education, and they agree that education should be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity and to consolidate respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Consolidating the bonds of understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and the various ethnic or religious groups, and supporting the activities carried out by the United Nations in order to maintain peace."
At the end of this legal situation paper, SAM calls on the international community to intervene and enable Yemeni children to exercise their right to receive education on the same footing as other children and students around the world. Stressing the importance of serious action and stopping the practices of the Houthi militia and providing sufficient guarantees for Yemeni students to fully enjoy their rights.