Conflict leaves many Helmand schools in ruins
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): The ongoing conflict in southern Helmand province has left in ruins 26 schools in three districts, depriving 42,000 children of an education.
For the past three weeks, fierce clashes between security forces and Taliban militants have been underway in various districts and areas near the provincial capital, Lashkargah.
Helmand education director Abdul Matin Jaffar told Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday that 26 schools in Garamser, Nawa and Nad Ali districts had been caused damage in the conflict and all equipment had been taken away by unknown people.
He said of the damaged schools, 11 were in Nawa, nine in Garamser and six in Nad Ali district, adding 42000 children studying in these schools had been affected.
“The ruined schools have been turned into bastions,” said Jaffar, who claimed the Afghan National Army had established bases in schools in Nad Ali. However, he did not say if schools in Garamser and Nawa are turned into bastions.
The education director said he had shared the problem with provincial government officials, but no one could visit the troubled districts due to insecurities.
Garamser education officer Mohammad Bashir also said many schools in the district had been damaged in the latest conflict. He said the schools suffering damages were located in Safar, Lakri, Zanzeer, Kochni Darwishan, Jagrum, Kodalo Drab and Kharoti areas.
He said local residents had stolen equipment and documents of the schools. Bashir said the Taliban had promised protection of schools and they apparently had created no problem.
“Several other schools have also been damaged, but teachers and other workers cannot visit the schools to inquire after their situation,” said Bashir, who put the number of students in Garamser district at 16,000 in 39 schools with a dozen having no building.
Nad Ali district chief Mohammad Gul Hashmi confirmed damages to schools in the district and said military forces had dug trenches in a number of schools.
“I am trying to get ousted the military personnel from schools, but there is a war ongoing and this cannot be done quickly,” said Hashmi, who had shared the issue with security officials.
The official accused Taliban militants of destroying documents and textbooks in most of schools.
A reliable source in Nawa district told Pajhwok Afghan News that military forces had occupied school buildings and had emptied them of own equipment to make space for themselves.
He said the buildings of 11 schools had been damaged in Nawa district and all their equipment looted by common people and insurgents.
The source said a few days ago Taliban militants shelled with mortars the high school’s administration and a seminary, igniting a fire that gutted all documents and equipment.
A tribal elder in Nawa district, Attiqullah Khan, said besides looting schools, generators at health clinics had also been stolen in various parts of the district.
He said the Taliban had recovered some of the looted equipment from people and had put them back at their original places.
The elder said the looting of schools and other public installations should be prevented because their rehabilitation was not a simple job.
In this regard, social council head for Nad Ali district, Mohammad Nabi Ulfat, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the military had occupied four schools in the town. He also said common people not Taliban had looted school equipment.
Ulfat said if the warring parties did not prevent the destruction of schools, the new generation would only be familiar with war and it would be illiteracy that would keep the conflict going.
Col. Mohammad Rasool Zazi, the Maiwand Military Corps spokesman, denied the military had established bunkers in schools. But he did not say who had established them.
About a week ago, the Human Rights Watch said a number of schools were being used as military bases in Afghanistan by both security forces and insurgents, endangering lives of students and hindering the education process.
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