Long and rough road to schools in Afghanistan

Education in Afghanistan has been through a lot. Though for a decade steps have been taken by the government and international aid to rebuild education system in this war torn country, it’s still a long journey ahead for all kids to go to school.

Suffering first at the hands of the war on terror and then facing a Taliban backlash, which peaked during 2006, when schools were the prime target for Taliban fighters for over a year.

Post 2007 there has been some positives in the education system.

As a report in Afghanistan Analyst Network ‘The Battle for Schools: The Taleban and State Education’ states: The Taleban allowed schools to re-open if certain demands were met – and these have remained constant since 2007: adopt the Taleban curriculum, based on the 1980s mujahedin curriculum and textbooks, and hire teachers of religious subjects linked to the Taleban, usually in addition to Ministry of Education teachers. In 2010, the Ministry of Education decided to re-start negotiations with the Taleban and the pace of local negotiations accelerated considerably. This also coincided with the Taleban’s removing an order to attack schools and teachers from their code of conduct when it was revised in 2009.

When WeSpeakNews tried to reach out to Afghans on the current situation the response was, ‘development is happening at a slow pace and lot needs to be done till the goal is reached. All of this though depends a lot on political solution over the ongoing war.’

Hares Kakar, journalist for Deutsche Presse Agentur, said, “Post 2001, education system has quite improved. We have large numbers of students (girls and boys) going to schools but the level of education is low. We have achieved a lot in our education but we are still facing problems. “He added, “But we cannot compare current education system with the system during the Taliban regime.”

The International aid has gone up considerably, but lot needs to be done at the grass root level.

As Ahmad Farzad Lameh, journalist based out of Washington DC notes, “Despite of billions of dollars poured into Afghanistan in the past 10 years, yet nearly four million Afghan children are out of education – mostly in southern areas where the Taliban are comparatively powerful.”

He argues, “Some of Taliban extremists assume schools as the place for encouraging local people to stand up against Taliban that’s why the insurgents have set fire to dozens schools’ building in an attempt to prevent local children from going there.”

This argument is countered to an extent. Responding to this report Sharifullah Sahak, New York Times correspondent in Kabul sent WeSpeakNews this information. “In one of my recent interviews with former Taliban Ambassador to Islamabaad Mollawi Abdul Sallam Zaieef said that Taliban are not against school and education in Afghanistan there are intelligence circles from regional countries actively involved in Afghan conflict and blowing up schools in Afghanistan in order to defame the Taliban for it.”

He continued the argument saying that Zaieef feels this is a way to give a blow to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Reason why we did not let girls go to school was because of lack of budget that’s why we had to close down some of the schools in Afghanistan and let the boys go to school and added that now the Taliban have changed and will help more to let people go to school.

In addition Ahmad Fareed, conservative Mullaha and former member of the parliament from Kapisa province,  told Sahak that in current situation letting Afghan girls to schools would not be fair and proper specially in rural parts of Afghanistan because we do not have good transportation for our girls to go to schools and have long walks from villages and also said that our girls do not feel safe when they go to schools and gets harassed by people around them.

With Taliban speaking of softening the stand on education and help pouring from across the world, hundreds of school still remained closed in remote areas, students and teachers are still being threatened by Taliban or insurgents mostly in southern parts of the country. That apart lack of professional teachers in our schools is a big hurdle.

Aid from majors like USAID focuses on improving teaching, institutional systems that sustain quality teaching, providing instructional materials, and constructing learning spaces as well as paying for rebuilding and building of schools across the country.

But still Kabul based, CBS journalist Ahmad Mukhtar says, “Even in Kabul, students do not have enough class rooms, chairs, books, library and school. Still the students in the capital can be seen study under a tent without basic facilities.”

To make things worse Kakar says, “Most of the teachers are 12th grade school pass outs, and don’t have any degree. There are still five million children who cannot go to schools in Afghanistan due to poverty and insecurity.”

According to ministry of education, Afghanistan needs five thousands qualified teachers in our schools, this is a big problem. There is a lack of talent and even those who come in to teach don’t make much money.

Mukhtar points out that a school teacher in Afghanistan makes around 10,000 -15,000 Afghanis (Afs) or (USD 225-338) per month.

On the other side of the spectrum is high tech and well equipped universities like the American University of Afghanistan where the fee is as high as USD 600 per month that a few Afghans can only afford.

The divide is wide and can only be bridged once a political solution over the ongoing war in Afghanistan is reached. The Afghan educational system won’t improve otherwise despite all aid, efforts and movement of overseas Afghans back into the country.

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