Dozens of schools reopen in volatile south
KABUL, 26 March 2009 (IRIN) - Eighty-one primary
and secondary schools which had previously been closed
in southern areas of Afghanistan owing to insecurity
have reopened in the past three months, the Education
Ministry (MoE) has said.
A series of individual agreements were reached
during behind-the-scenes talks between the MoE, local
tribal elders, religious scholars and insurgent
groups, the MoE said.
“The reopening of 81 schools in Kandahar, Helmand
and Uruzgan provinces will enable over 50,000 students
to reclaim their right to education,” Asif Nang, a
spokesman for the MoE, told IRIN in Kabul.
Some 15 percent of the 50,000 students are girls,
Local people had agreed to ensure the safety and
security of the schools, the students and the teaching
staff, Nang said.
Efforts are also under way to reopen hundreds of
other schools through community-based initiatives and
Over 570 primary and secondary schools are still
closed - mostly in southern regions where Taliban
insurgents have burned down schools and killed or
terrified students and teachers. Hundreds of thousands
of students had been denied education as a result, MoE
Over 290 security incidents involving schools,
students and school workers were reported in 2008,
according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Since his appointment as education minister in
October, Farooq Wardak has engaged in a policy of
rapprochement with the insurgents, and tried to
persuade them to allow schools to be reopened.
The Taliban oppose girls’ formal education and all
types of outdoor work by women, due to their strict
interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
“The 81 schools have been reopened owing to support
from tribal elders, local councils, religious scholars
and ‘patriotic Taliban’,” said Wardak’s chief
spokesman, Asif Nang.
In a new directive issued by the education minister
on 22 March, all schools and education centres in the
country have been instructed to ensure prayer breaks
during school hours, a practice which has hitherto not
been formally enforced, but which is expected to
please the Taliban.
The MoE also said it would consider favourably
requests by the insurgents for the renaming of schools
as `madrasas’, and teachers as `mullahs’, and would be
prepared to tweak the existing curriculum, which the
MoE believes is already in line with Islamic precepts,
to accommodate any minor misgivings the insurgents
The MoE’s overtures seem to be in line with the
government’s policy of reconciliation with the
insurgents in order to end the armed conflict. The
media have recently carried numerous reports of
government intentions to reach a modus vivendi with
Human rights activists have warned that girls’
education must not be left out of the equation in
talks with the Taliban.
According to UNICEF, the country has one of the
highest adult illiteracy rates in the world: 71
percent in general, 86 percent for females.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
information service, but may not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations or its agencies.