BartaBangla Desk »

DSC02548By Mirwais Jalalzai, Afghanistan :: Vibrant and cheerful, the 12-year-old Khadija has a lot of work to do at home.

She helps looking after her younger siblings, two maroon roosters and four white hens, telling me about her tasks around the house. But when it comes to school, she pauses, “There isn’t any in our village.”

Khadija lives in the outskirts of Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of Afghanistan’s Nengarhar province on the country’s restive eastern border with Pakistan.

Villagers informed me about an incident that took place two years ago resulting in absolute educational deprivation of the children. The Taliban gunmen bombed the only school in their village in daylight and warned the locals against any attempt to re-run the school.

Parents in Khadija’s village are left with no alternative, but to send their children to other villages, which means walking for hours and taking all kinds of risks.

“There is a risk that the Taliban will attack them, or criminals might kidnap your child, or simply being hit by heat-wave,” Khadija’s mother says.

Therefore, Khadija’s family preferred not to send her to school preferring safety above education, in a conservative society that girls’ education already has a dark history.

Khadija is one of the 4.2 million Afghan children, as estimated by UNECIF that don’t get any education out of which %60 are girls.

According to the U.N estimation most of the children that are deprived of getting education live in the country’s volatile eastern and southern regions, vastly controlled by the Taliban.

Afghanistan’s Education Ministry reported in 2012 that the number of schools being bombed or set ablaze reached to a total of 600 since the fall of the Taliban regime.

The country’s Education Minister Farooq Wardak says “Only 54 School were boomed or torched by Taliban gunmen between 2011 and 2012, that remained closed.”

Minister Farooq also confirms that hundreds of thousands of students still remain without any possibility of getting back to school, despite billions of dollars that have poured into the country as foreign aid since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Brining as many children to schools, especially girls were a major sign of change in Afghanistan, since education for women was banned during the Taliban regime as un-Islamic.

afghanistanHowever, Afghanistan’s newly adopted constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women, the Afghan government has fallen short of keeping schools open, building schools and securing school building, students, and teachers.

Throughout the years, militant Taliban has been constantly warning locals against running schools or sending their daughters to schools.

In 2011, the built ridden body of a teacher at Khadija’s village was found near to his home after he ignored several warnings to stop attempts to re-opening the school.

“The incident shocked every one,” says Khadija’s mother, who has never been to school.

“It is better to stay home, than being killed at school or kidnapped either by the Taliban or other fanatics. They don’t like girls that go to schools.”

A major question is that how does attacking schools and students help the ongoing militancy in Afghanistan?

Palwasha, teacher at an elementary school in Kabul, indicates, “It is the Taliban’s strategy to spread fear among the people and degrade the Afghan government’s reputation by attacking soft targets such as school buildings and students.”

Confirming Khadija’s mother, she also puts the blame on the Afghan government and its security forces for not putting enough efforts to provide the public with adequate security.

But, Amin-u-allah a police officer in Kabul’s Mosahi distract, where insurgents bombed a girls’ school in January, complains of lack of personnel and equipment. He suggests the public should help securing schools and students. He says “the people should report to us in case of noticing a suspicious vehicle or a stranger.”

In its annual report in 2012, the UNICEF voiced concern over a dramatic increase in the number of attacks against schools.

The report says at least 70 attacks against school buildings, students and teachers have been seen in the last year, in comparison to thee twenty-eight incidents in the previous year.

The Afghan government has constantly been trying to reach out to religious scholars, Imams and elders to promote girls’ education in villages through mosques and spread awareness about the importance of girls’ education.

Afghanistan’s Minister of education says that most attacks targeted y girls’ schools. “Those were schools that we had built with the help of our international partners.”

Afghan president Hamid Karzai in his speech marking the beginning of new school year in the country, called upon the Taliban to avoid targeting schools on both sides of the restive Durand line between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He labeled such acts as “inhuman” and “vicious”.

But for thousands of Afghan families, the reality on the ground remains unchanged.

Khadija finds solace in the company of her friends, and no one knows if they will be ever able to go to school.

“It is heartbreaking to see the way these terrorists treat … women,” Said  Palwasha, They are scared that when these girls get an education, they will become aware of their rights as women and as a human being.”




Share »

Leave A Reply