Islamic State has shut all schools in areas it controls in eastern Syria pending a religious revision of the curriculum, residents and a monitoring group said on Friday.
Islamic State is tightening its rules on civilian life in Deir al-Zor province, which fell under near-complete control of the Islamist militant group this summer. The government still controls a military air base and other small pockets.
The announcement came on Wednesday, after Islamic State held a meeting with school administrators at a local mosque on the outskirts of Deir al-Zor city, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors all sides of the conflict.
"Islamic State informed them that teachers shall undergo a religious instructional course for one month, and that Islamic State officials were currently developing a new curriculum instead of the current 'infidel' education," the Observatory statement said.
At the start of the academic year in September, Islamic State revised the school curriculum in areas it controls, eliminating physics and chemistry while promoting Islamic teachings.
Their latest move aims to further reduce the school day into several hours of religious learning at the expense of academic subjects, according to local activists.
"They've announced that they will only teach religion and a little bit of mathematics. Their rationale is that all knowledge belongs to the creator, so even the multiplication table shouldn't be taught," said an activist called Abu Hussein al Deiri.
Some locals protested the school shutdown, according to footage posted online by activists. It showed two dozen girls and boys appearing to be under 12 years of age marching with a few female teachers clad in black veils as required by Islamic State since the beginning of the academic year.
The children chanted: "we want school".
But activist al Deiri lamented that the protests were muted because most people were "too afraid to demonstrate".
Islamic State has detained, crucified, executed and beheaded hundreds in recent months in Deir al-Zor for "apostasy", a crime of which it accuses anyone who disobeys or opposes Islamic State.