In Farah, thousands remain bereft of basic education
FARA CITY (Pajhwok): Around 300,000 individuals aged between six and 25 years are deprived of basic education in western Farah province for multiple reasons, including insecurity, a ban imposed by the Taliban, lack of facilities and poverty.
Findings of Pajhwok Afghan News showed 47 schools in different parts of the province remain closed, leaving 81,000 students, including 32,000 girls, without education. Additionally, 280,000 children and youth have no access to education due to other factors.
Toryalai, head of the youth council, says 13 schools are functional in the in the district, but the Taliban have slapped a ban on girls’ education. However, the militants have no problem with schools for boys. Some of these school situated in Taliban-controlled areas, such Musawa, remain open.
Growing insecurity, the government’s lethargic approach and clashes between security forces and the rebels are the main impediments to the education sector in the province, according to Toryalai, who fears illiterate youth may swell Taliban’s ranks.
Ghawsuddin, the town’s administrative chief, estimates around 30,000 Pushtrod youth are uneducated despite the existence of 14 primary, intermediate and high schools were active in the district. The insurgent presence is also taking a toll on the education system, as the Taliban recently closed a girls’ school in Masawa locality.
Ghulam Hazrat, the resident of Lirbagi village, claims not a single school is open in the district, with thousands pf boys and girls having no access to education. For the past two years, the education department tasked some officials with teaching students some subjects, he recalls.
Mir Hamza, 26, a member of the development council, claims the Taliban had earlier shut down all schools across the district. Nonetheless, the reopening of some of them were allowed a few months ago. Tribal elders held negotiations with the fighters and convinced the group into reopening several schools.
Rahmatullah, 55, a resident of Mughulabad neighbourhood, complains his children are uneducated because there is no school in his village, whose residents have to travel several miles to reach school. Because of militant-linked violence and insecurity, he does not allow his children to go to school.
He urges the Taliban to join the government-initiated peace process so that every child is able to be equipped with education. Only educated youth, an asset to any nation in the modern-day world, can ensure a bright future for the conflict-torn country, he believes.
Mohammad Qasim Majboor, the district’s administrative head, acknowledges thousands of boys and girls are without education -- thanks to the government’s weak writ and a strong Taliban presence in Gulistan. Only 200 girls and boys are admitted to two schools functioning in the district.
Abdul Rahim, hailing from Jija village, is a sixth grader at the Qala Arbab School. The 14-year-old previously studied at a local school, which had to be closed due to lack of teachers. He grumbles only few schools are open in the district. The Shahid Mohammad Yousuf School was recently locked due to non-availability of teachers.
The district chief, Abdul Khaliq Noorzai, confirms some schools had to be closed in because there were no teachers. But 10 schools for boys and three for girls are still operating in the district. He laments thousands of boys and girls are bereft of education as.
Sirajuddin belongs to the Kansk village of Bala Baluk -- the largest district of Farah province. The 45-year-old grouses a small number of schools are situated in the district, but they are too remote for children. He links the fewer number of schools to government unconcern and Taliban atrocities.
“Earlier, the Taliban did not allow education. In recent years, however, the group let students go to school in most areas. The fighters even told residents to ask the Ministry of Education for building more schools in the town,” he continues.”
He lampoons education officials’ claim that a school -- having two teachers -- is functioning in the village, where 120 students are enrolled. The man moans the education department’s failure to address the problem, despite several requests.
Most schools don’t have buildings and textbooks are not made available in time. Mullah Syed Mohammad, the district chief, verifies the department’s inadequacies. He says 11 schools are active in the district, where 3,780 students are being imparted education.
He admits to the closure of two schools for girls in Kansk and Deh Zak areas by the Taliban three years ago. They remain closed to date, to the detriment of area children, whose future is uncertain.
The chairman of teachers’ association, Hamidullah Rahmani, remarks: “I know the rebels are not that averse to the cause of education in Farah. It is a weakness of the government that these schools have not been reopened so far.”
More than 300,000 people are shorn of education in the province, he reckons. No schools has been functional over the past 10 years in Bakwa district while a limited numbers of schools are operating in Gulistan, Khak-i-Safid, Bala Baluk and Pushrod districts, he explains.
In some districts, he alleges, there are ghost schools that have been a source of loss to the exchequer. Even in the provincial capital, Rahmani says, a large number of people have no access to education.
“For example, I am a resident of Qala-i-Rahman village on the outskirts of Farah City, the provincial capital. In my village, hundreds of girls are deprived of education because there is no school for them. And the villagers don’t let their girls go to other areas.”
Faiz Mohammad, a resident of Nawbahar village, has two daughters and four sons. But financial woes are a stumbling block to their education. Only two of his sons and daughters are in school. His teenaged sons have opted out of school to go to Iran for work, regrets the man -- a daily-wager.
“When you have nothing to eat, nothing is as important as bread. In such a hopeless situation, even education appears a luxury and takes a back seat,” the 38-year-old reasons.
Governor Mohammad Asif Nang says Farah has a population of 1.2 million and 300,000 people between the ages of six and 25 years are without education. “The people of insecure areas such as Bakwa, Gulistan, Bala Baluk and Khakh-i-Safid are the worst hit.”
He blames this sorry state of affairs on a strong Taliban in the districts, accusing the insurgents of stopping people from getting education in areas under their control. Widespread poverty and insufficient elemental facilities are among the other factors behind illiteracy, the governor continues.
Yar Mohammad, planning manager at the education department, sees security threats, the presence of militants and lack of education services in remote areas as the main factors behind the closure of schools.
Since 2010, nearly 13 schools in Gulistan, 12 in Pusht Koh, four in Khak-i-Safid, four in Pushtrod, two in Pur Chaman, one in Bakwa, two in Anardara, one in Bala Baluk, one in Jawin and five in Shebkoh have been closed. A primary school in Toot and a middle school in Khurmaliq area of the provincial capital have also been closed over the past three years.
Nearly 81,000 students, over 32,000 of them girls are enrolled in schools. The official stops short of putting an exact figure of children who are out of school. But statistics from his department show nearly 81,000 people are deprived of education for different reasons.
Regarding ghost schools, Education Director Mohammad Sabir Farooqi says they cannot properly monitor educational institutes in remote parts owing to insecurity. The authorities have to rely on education managers’ reports, verified by district chiefs and development councils.
A total of 110,000 students, including more than 37,000 girls, are currently enrolled in 305 schools across the province, where a purposeful education remains a distant dream. Importantly, the security challenge needs to be tackled on a war footing to boost the vital sector in Farah.
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