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Houthi group turning educational institutions into child recruitment centres and training camps, say experts

Houthi group turning educational institutions into child recruitment centres and training camps, say experts
29 Nov 2023 11:41

Ahmed Shaaban (Cairo, Aden) - As the educational system in Yemen is deteriorating due to the nine-year-long war, human rights experts warn that students of all ages are dropping out of school, making them vulnerable to the Houthi group’s exploitation and recruitment efforts.

The experts stated that education has become “impossible” due to the group’s violations of children’s rights, as they are turning schools into military barracks, training camps, and centres for spreading extremist ideology.

A survey conducted by the Central Statistical Agency in Aden and Sanaa on the status of the educational process in Yemen, which has been disrupted by the Houthi-ignited war, revealed that one in four children in basic education and more than half of the children in secondary education are out of school.

Fahmi Al-Zubairi, Director of the Human Rights Office in Sanaa, warned of the terrifying deterioration of the educational process, noting that since the Houthis’ armed takeover of various Yemeni institutions, they have been systematically destroying and targeting the educational system.

Education faces difficult challenges after the Houthis tightened their grip, compounding the crisis already exacerbated by the collapse of all other institutions, infrastructure, and healthcare. Al-Zubairi told Aletihad that the Houthi group imposes fees within the educational system that are far over the normal amount, putting parents and children in a challenging situation as Yemen’s economy is deteriorating and school supply prices are soaring.

Approximately 2.5 million children do not go to schools due to the war and the inability to cover educational costs, which the Houthis leverage to recruit children for battlefronts. He stated that the war led to the destruction or closure of over 3500 schools, forcing students to leave education or study in overcrowded, small classrooms, tents, or shelters.

He stressed the need for urgent interventions from the UN and related international organisations. Al-Zubairi added that the Houthis targeted some areas with rocket projectiles, military attacks, and landmines, threatening the lives of students and teachers and creating a fear that led to abandoning education and closing schools, continuing displacement and forced migration.

A recent World Bank report revealed that the conflict in Yemen has deteriorated the quality of education and caused a significant number of student dropouts. Families face significant difficulties in sending their children to schools, which are operating on emergency schedules, with part-time and intermittent lessons.

The Human Rights Office director stated that the Houthi group continues to change and distort curricula in a sectarian, racist, and supremacist manner, threatening Yemen’s future despite widespread public rejection in the areas they control.

Many education personnel in Sanaa and other governorates have refused to teach these curricula, which are contrary to the principles of moderation and the constitution. Nabil Abdul Hafeez, Deputy Minister of Human Rights in Yemen, said that Yemeni children are among the most affected by the war.

Abdul Hafeez told Aletihad that the Houthis’ continuous attacks on schools have led to a large number of educational facilities going out of service, in addition to pushing thousands of children into battles, resulting in thousands of children dying in battles or suffering permanent disabilities.

Abdul Hafeez described child recruitment as a crime according to international laws and conventions, stressing the need for justice, continued monitoring, documentation, and reporting of violations through organisations and human rights bodies. He emphasised that the international community and UN organisations must provide protection for Yemeni children and pressure the Houthis to stop their violations against them.

He explained that over 4.5 million displaced people, mostly children, have been forced to flee from their areas and live in camps, further hindering their access to education. The deliberate impoverishment by the Houthis has also forced many children into labour to support their families.

He emphasised that these crises have negatively and seriously affected the state of childhood and the educational process. He called for joint work to overcome this crisis, confront violations, improve the well-being of children, return them to schools, and work to save childhood in Yemen.

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