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    Taliban taking control of schools in GHazni

    GHAZNICITY(PAN):  In three-quarters of the districts in southern Ghazni province, schools receive money from the government but their curriculum is controlled by the Taliban.

    Over the past few years, as the Taliban have tightened their grip on Ghazni, school textbooks have been changed, more religious subjects added to the curriculum and teachers hired by the Ministry of Education replaced with members of the Taliban. The governor of the province even followed Taliban orders to move a school to a different location.

    Thirteen of Ghazni’s 19 districts have fallen under the Taliban, and in Andar district, all 28 schools are run by the insurgents. Earlier this year, the Taliban dismissed the teachers at eight high schools and 20 primary and secondary schools in Andar and replaced them with Taliban.

    They also changed the curriculum, bringing in more religious subjects and introduced a supervision committee to oversee all the teachers.

    Sher Khan Yousufzai, chief of Andar district, said the schools had “become like Madrassas” with extra religious subjects such as Quran Karim, the study of the Quran; Tafser, the interpretations of the verses of the Quran; hadiths, the words of the Prophet Mohammed; and Aqayed, about Islamic beliefs.

    Students and their parents are also concerned by the change in curriculum.

    Akhtar Mohammed, who was studying at Shahabudin Ghori High School in Andar, said the situation was so bad he had to change schools. He has transferred out of the Taliban district to Shamshul Arefain High School in the provincial capital, 24 kilometres away.

    “The Taliban did not come into the schools with guns, but they sent a supervisory commission. The commission tells the teachers what to teach and the students what to study.

    “I have no choice but to come to the city to study.”

    Another student at Shahabudin Ghori High School, who requested that his name not be used, said the quality of teaching was very poor and that that there was no focus on scientific studies, it was mostly religious.

    Yousufzai, the district chief, said Shahabudin Ghori used to be located near the district headquarters, but the Taliban insisted the school be moved to Narmi village, about five kilometres away, which is under the their control.

    The insurgents warned that if Andar authorities did not comply with their order, they would burn the school down.

    “The Taliban had the school moved so they could teach their favourite subject easier,” Yousufzai said.

    Tribal elders and family members say they are powerless to do anything against the Taliban.

    “If we don’t accept the orders of the Taliban, the schools will be closed and thousands of students will not be able to study,” said Saleh Gul, a tribal elder in Andar.

    He said the Taliban moved the school just to show they were in control.

    He said that he and other elders had asked the district educational officials to go to Ghazni city and explain why they had transferred the control and supervision of 28 schools to the Taliban.

    Hosni Mubarak, director of education in Ghazni province, said that they moved Shahabuddin Ghori high school because it was close to the district headquarters which was often under attack from the Taliban.

    “We want to keep students safe from Taliban attacks,” he said.

    He also denied the Taliban had control of the schools, saying that the local government was still in charge of hiring and firing teachers.

    The Taliban, however, say that they hire all the Sharia teachers at schools in areas under their control, and from time to time supervise the schools.

    Andar is not the only district in which the Talban are in control. Of the 19 districts in Ghazni, only six are government-controlled, putting the educational future of thousands of students in the hands of the Taliban.

    Even in the district centre of Andar, the Taliban have exerted their influence. The only place left that is representative of the government is the district headquarters, which is now much like a police station.

    Secretary of Ghazni’s provincial council, Amanullah Kamrani, said people don’t go to the district headquarters because there is no government employee there.

    However, Yousufzai said that all of the government work is carried out by him and the district chief of police, and that his door is always open to residents.