JEDDAH: Millions of Yemeni children risk missing out on proper education due to the Houthi militias’ refusal to pay the salaries of hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers in the rebel-controlled areas, the Yemeni government said on Monday.
“Of the more than 300,000 teachers in the country, over 130,00 in the rebel-held territory have not been paid salaries in months,” Yemeni Education Minister Abdullah Lamlas told Arab News.
“Since the government has decided to relocate the central bank from Sanaa to Aden, Houthi militias have been using the teachers as pawns, refusing to pay their salaries and thus undermining the entire education process and endangering the future of the new Yemeni generation,” he said.
He added that over the past two years, Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh have denied Yemen’s children the right to education and placed them in harm’s way by recruiting them by force.
He said the coup militias also changed the school curriculum to instill sectarian ideology into the students’ minds.
“Houthis have deprived more than 2.5 million students of the right to education, in addition to shelling, raiding schools and turning them into military posts and weapons deposits. They destroyed more 1,700 schools since they have turned against the legitimate government,” said Lamlas.
He added that the Education Ministry is making efforts to develop a program to sustain a comprehensive rehabilitation of students.
The coup militias printed over 11,000 pamphlets carrying the views of their leader Hussain Al-Houthi and the group’s slogans, which they distributed in schools controlled either by the militias or by forces loyal to Saleh, independent Yemeni sources reported.
Meanwhile, a UN report warned this month that the two years of war may have deprived an entire generation of Yemeni children of education, putting them at greater risk of early marriage, in case of girls, or of being recruited as child soldiers in a conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people.
Months of unpaid salaries have exacerbated the situation of over three-quarters of the country’s impoverished teachers. It also means that up to 4.5 million children might not finish the school year, UNICEF representative for Yemen Mertixell Relano told a press conference on Monday in Sanaa.
“At the moment, we have more than 166,000 teachers in the country that have not received a salary since October last year. This is more or less 73 percent of the total number of teachers in the country,” Relano said. “Those children that are not in school, they are at risk of being recruited (for military service), or the girls might be at risk of being married earlier,” she stressed.
The crisis began last year when the internationally recognized government shifted Yemen’s central bank out of Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis.
The government says the Houthis looted the bank and that it is trying to make all payments despite the Houthis obstructing transfers, a charge the group denies.
Seven months of salaries are in arrears, public sector employees in Houthi-controlled parts of the country say, making commuting to work and making ends meet difficult.