On Friday, Hassan Zaid, minister for youth and sport in an administration set up by the Iran-backed rebels and not internationally recognized, suggested suspending school for a year and sending pupils and teachers to the front.
“Wouldn't we be able to reinforce the ranks with hundreds of thousands (of fighters) and win the battle?” Zaid wrote on Facebook.
The Yemeni government described Zaid’s proposal as a “fascist procedure.”
“This is further proof that this militia is a war-mongering group that pays no regard to the values of the Yemeni people,” Rajeh Badi, Yemeni government spokesman, told Arab News on Friday. “While students should be encouraged to consistently engage in the education process, this top Houthi official calls for suspending school and sending them to the war zone.”
Badi stressed that the Houthis pose a threat not only to the stability and security of Yemen and the Yemeni people, but also to that of the region and the world at large.
“The world, and human rights organizations that have been turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to ongoing Houthi violations of Yemeni civil rights, must realize the savage nature of this fascist militia who has been using Yemeni children to fight for them,” he said.
Yemen has been devastated by a war between the Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, and the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
A teachers' strike in rebel territory, in protest at salaries going unpaid for around a year, delayed the start of the school year by two weeks. When schools did open, on Sunday, classrooms were largely empty.
Social media users responded angrily to the minister's post.
“What if we let the students study and send the ministers and their bodyguards to the front?” one wrote. “That would give us victory and a prosperous future.”
Zaid seemed bemused by those who complained about his proposal.
“People close the schools under the pretext of a strike and when we think about how to take advantage of this situation, they take offense,” he said.
UNICEF estimates 13,146 schools, or 78 percent of all of Yemen's schools, have been hit by the salary crunch, while nearly 500 schools have been destroyed by the conflict, commandeered by armed factions, or repurposed as shelters.