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The Killid Group
Conflict, problems deny children educationWritten by Ismayl Larawai
Saturday, 16 April 2011 11:55
As President Hamid Karzai struck the bell at Amaani High School to officially inaugurate the country's 1390 educational year, the minister of education, Farouq Wardak, said that over seven million students will go to schools all over the country this year. However, in Paktia things are different.
The unprecedented rise in student numbers from about one million in 2001 to over seven million in 2011 is widely lauded as a major post-Taliban achievement thanks to generous donor support. However, at least in the southeastern Paktia Province progress has been stalled largely due to widespread insecurity and a lack of schools, qualified teachers, text books and other educational resources, according to several people and students interviewed by Killid. Tribal elders from Zadran, Khawak, Gerda Seria, Wazi Zadran, Jani Khil, Zurmat and Mangal said that armed violence resulting from the recurrent clashes between Taliban insurgents and pro-government forces had forced many parents to stop sending their children to schools.
"No one wants his children to be killed or wounded on the way to school," said Saifullah, a resident of Gardez, the capital city of Paktia.
Poor quality of education services are also disappointing students.
"We had no teachers, no books and nothing in the school and it was just a waste of time to go there," alleged Abdul Rauf, a teenager who quit the school at grade nine.
Samiuulah, a student-turned-vendor, said he left his school in Jani Khil District at his father's advice. "My father told me if I learn nothing at school it would be better that I work and earn money," he said.
However, officials in the provincial department of education refuted the criticisms and assured that proper education services were available at schools across the province. "We had some 18,000 students in Paktia last year and hope the number will increase significantly this year," said Mihrabudin Shafaq, provincial director of education.
Although local people and officials did not mention whether the Taliban and other armed groups were against the schools in Paktia but a lack of awareness about the benefits of education was commonly cited as a major problem. Ahmad Sultan, a resident of Gardez city, said that many parents were simply overlooking the importance of education in the future of their children. "We do not know the importance of education," he said adding that education had largely lost its value in the eyes of many families.
Female education has been a particular victim of this lack of awareness. Conservative traditions, poverty and an overall unease about female education are the additional hurdles which are impeding girls' education in Paktia. Education officials said up to 30 new schools will be built in the province this year but said there were no guarantees the new schools would attract more students, particularly female.