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The Killid Group

"I was fined for going to school"

Written by Roshan Atal
Saturday, 25 June 2011 15:35

"I was fined for going to school" Noorullah, a young boy of Ghazni was abducted by armed men and freed only after ten days and the payment of a 'fine' by his father. The only crime that the family has committed was to have sent Noorullah to school. He is not the only one. Many students of Ghazni province are paying the price of insurgent opposition to government education or else government apathy, leaving them stranded.
Noorullah was kidnapped on his way to his school in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province. "They tied my hands and eyes and took me with them. I was with them for exactly ten days." The men told Noorullah that he should stop going to school. "Finally, they fined me. They asked my father for 10,000 Afs($1 is equal to 46 Afs the Afghan currency, Afghani). My father is a farmer. So he had to sell the family sheep to get the money. After that they set me free."
Though Noorullah does not identify the Taliban or any other insurgent group by name, similar stories documenting insurgent opposition to education suggest a climate of intimidation against students and teachers by insurgents seeking to control if not ban education. Even more surprisingly this is taking place almost under the nose of the Afghan government and the U.S. forces. Qarabagh is only 50 kms North of Kabul and 20 kms away from the U.S. base in Bagram.
A student of Ghazni University who talked on the condition of anonymity said that he worked as a farm-hand for three years after completing his high school because he was told not to acquire higher education. "I worked for three years on our farm. Later our high school principal told me to participate in the University Entry Test asking me how long I would be a labourer for others. But now I cannot go to my village openly because I am afraid that I might be threatened or killed by someone."
A teacher of Wali Baba School in Deh Yak District who talked on the condition of anonymity said that he was threatened with death to stop teaching or be killed through a letter.  "I have kept the warning letter with myself. It says: 'Unless you stop teaching, the responsibility for the consequences will be yours'."

Government absent
Ghulam Gul, a resident of of Nawa district, says that there is no school in the entire district. "Only a few persons make fake documents for getting the salaries of teachers with the concurrence of the Taliban. Schools are running only in name in Nawa. It is shameful that in the whole district there is no school or if there is one, it is as good as non-existent."
There are similar reports from Ander district where resident say the schools exist only in name. "There are no tables, no chairs, no books.Students just go in the morning and leave it at noon" says Haji Muhammad Sarwar, a a resident of Ander District, about a school in his locality. He says that his children have been going to the school for two years, but have learnt nothing. "They do not even know the alphabet. At least the education directorate should send its delegation once. He also says that the vacations of the school are determined not by the education authorities but by the Taliban. "If the government announces the vacation or the inauguration of schools, the Taliban act against that."
A principal of a high school in Ander District who wanted to be anonymous said that they never opened schools in accordance with the announcement of the government. "On the second day of Hamal(the Afghan month that starts on March 21 and marks the start of the school year), schools were (officially) opened, but our school was not opened even on the third day because the Taliban came and stopped us. We opened the school in accordance with their advice on the tenth of Hamal."    
It is not just the vacation timing that the Taliban are determining. The residents and students of Ander District say that all their  text books were checked by the Taliban and they were stopped from studying some of the books.
"I was teaching in a classroom when the Taliban came. They checked all the books and ordered me to teach only Islamic books like the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and the Holy Quran to students" says Fazal Wali, a teacher of a school in Ander District.
Local elders say the solution of the problem has to begin with negotiations with the Taliban. "High level talks should be held with Taliban in this regard and Taliban should consider national interests of the country too" says Haji Gul Muhammad, a tribal elder of Ghazni.
Sher Muhammad, the headmaster of a school in Deh Yak District, also says that talks about the opening of schools and allowing students to go to schools is very important. "Talks should be held with the Taliban whether it is about peace or the opening of schools."
The Taliban declared in a press release issued on 29 April, 2011 that they do not destroy schools and do not pose any problem for them.
However another local tribal elder who does not want to be named says that the government should take strong steps.  "The only way to acquire education is security. Talks were held with Taliban several times, but did not add up to anything."
It is not just the insurgents who are a threat to education however. Students of the districts where schools are open complain that they do not have professional teachers, but have to enrol in private institutions to get real education. Sirajudin, the son of a farmer and a student of 11th grade of Shamsul Arifeen High School in Ghazni City, says that they study in private educational centers due to the lack of professional teachers, at considerable expense. "It is difficult to find money for joining private educational centres".

Government denials
Despite all these, the officials of the Education Directorate of Ghazni say that 600 schools are active across this province. Hussain Mubarak Azizi, education director of Ghazni Province, says that 300,000 students study in these schools and 42 % of these students are girls. "More than 7000 teachers work in the schools."
He also claims that the education process is going well in the province. "All schools are open and students go to schools without any problem."
However members of the provincial assembly of Ghazni Province also confirm the problems in schooling. Juma Gul, a member of the Ghazni Provincial Assembly, says that the insecurity of the last few years has deprived tens of thousands of students of Nawa District of their education. "This situation is still the same and the students still wander in the streets of the province. We strongly ask the education directorate to take these problems into account seriously."

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