Monday, December 08, 2008
17:34 Mecca time, 14:34 GMT
LESSONS IN CONFLICT
Education under fire
As part of its special programme on edcuation in conflict zones Al Jazeera
visited Afghanistan where, despite great steps forward, teachers and
schoolchildren are still regularly targeted and killed.
Education has always been a key battleground in the war over values that has
characterised more than 30 years of conflict in Afghanistan.
In recent times that battle has attained a new intensity and in the past year
more than 140 teachers and students have been killed.
In just one day in Gazny province it was estimated that about 30,000 children
were prevented from attending school because of threats against their lives.
"Unfortunately the number of attacks this year has increased dramatically,"
Mohammed Hanif Atmar, the education minister, says. "Over the past four months
my casualty rate has gone up to 50 per cent of the previous year."
Hanif says Afghan security forces are doing their best to stem the casualties
but admits targeting schools, teachers and schoolchildren has become a central
part of tactics adopted by the Taliban and other groups.
In Logar province, just an hour away from the capital Kabul, the Qalai Sayedan
School bears the scars of the Taliban's brutal campaign against education.
Armed guards protect the school grounds, the legacy of a vicious shooting
targeting schoolgirls in 2007 that killed two girls as well as injuring several
more and a teacher.
Razia, now aged 13, was leaving school with her sister, Shukria, when the
"When we came out of school the motorcycle riders shot at our teacher. She ran
away - and they shot the other students," she says.
"Then they shot my sister. I picked her up. She tried to stand but then she
fell again - and I ran home."
Razia and Shukria's father says after his daughter's murder his "heart was
wiped clean" and that he has been reluctant to allow Razia to return to school.
"I have been too afraid - since I saw my daughter bring home her sister in her
arms. And every time she sees a motorcycle her heart stop," he says.
The Afghanistan government sees Islamic religious schools, the madrasas, as a
point of concentration in their campaign to counter the influence of al-Qaeda
and the Taliban.
The governments in both Kabul and Washington see what they term militant
madrasas in Afghanistan, and across the border in Pakistan, as potential
training centres for terrorists.
However they are the only schools available in some areas of Afghanistan and as
a result the ministry of education is integrating Islamic schools more deeply
into the national schooling system.
Consequently there are plans to broaden the madrasa curriculum so that it
includes mathematics, science and languages, as well as study of the Quran.
"It's part of our policy that a new madrasa system with a broad based
curriculum will have to be established in this country," Atmar says. "So that
we once again we revive the glory of Islamic education and at the same time say
no to the hate madrasas across the border [in Pakistan]."
In Logar province 200 religious teachers have already been urged to take an
exam which will qualify them to work under the new state system as well as in
But doubts exist over the "value-based education" the minister has in mind with
opponents saying there is no place in Afghanistan's traditional Pashtun way of
life for so-called western culture.
"If a woman teaches and she observes the Islamic culture then we respect her,"
Haji Abdul Rahman Tawakili, says.
"But if she roles up her sleeves against Islamic Sharia, and if she wears
make-up or wears flimsy clothes then that is not Islamic. Some women want equal
rights. The rights in western culture."
Atmar wants to push forward a broad based curriculum in Afghanistan
Away from the violence in the provinces the direct assaults on education are
very rare in the Afghan capital Kabul.
There is no need for guards at the newly-opened Sayed Yusuf Elmi school.
As the first school in its area children head there with a sense of eager
anticipation rather than fear.
Only months after opening, the school has around 600 students and is
wholeheartedly supported by both parents and the community.
In fact education as a whole across Afghanistan today is largely held up as a
success story despite the rising casualties and horrific incidents such as the
one in Logar.
There are now nearly six million children in school - far more than there ever
were under the Taliban.
However a detailed look at what happens in educational facilities in the
country does take some of the sheen off such statistical success.
"Our big problem is not having a proper school building. This building is
rented, so we are pressed for space," Mohammed Hashem Oryakheil, the school
"We have up to 55 students in one classroom. And it is hard for teachers and
students to concentrate on what is taught."
Oryakheil says the community have allocated land for a school building but that
there is no budget to build one.
Requests to the education ministry for school books have so far been ignored.
There are no proper blackboards and basics such as desks and benches have to be
There is also no drinking water and no proper sanitation.
"I am so frustrated with the attitude of the government," Oryakheil says. "They
don't seem to care about what's happening to us."
The authorities say they consider education a priority in rebuilding
Afghanistan, but that it is one of many competing priorities.
Sayad Yusuf Elmi school
Even with unlimited resources available for education, however, nothing could
be achieved without the commitment of teachers.
Torpikai, who teaches English at the new school in Kabul, is one of many
examples of a teacher who has kept her resolve under extreme duress.
During the period of Taliban rule in the late nineties she lost her work as a
schoolteacher, so she ran secret classes in Quranic studies and English - in
her apartment on a bleak, Soviet-built estate on the edge of Kabul.
She only advertised the Quran lessons. But the local Taliban officials
discovered her secret and punished her by evicting her from her apartment.
When she left Kabul she defiantly started to teach English again - away from
"When the Taliban came to power the teachers had to stay home. It was chaos.
But in the last few years, the education system has become very good," she says.
"Because the children, whether they live near or far, are coming to school with
How Torpikai keeps her own passion for teaching is a remarkable feat.
In the years of civil war that led to Taliban rule, her life had all but been
destroyed. She lost her brother in battle. After that her husband. And then -
in a rocket attack - a son and a daughter.
"I'll never forget my daughter's death. She was an extremely good girl," she
says. "If I could, I would give these four walls to have her back."
Despite this catalogue of tragedy Torpikai continues to teach the next
generation of children with devotion and Adiya, her daughter who survived the
rocket attack, has inherited from her mother the same positive attitude to life
and to learning.
"My mother doesn't tell us the story very often because she knows that it will
make us sad," she says.
"I don't like war. I want to continue my education so that I can be something
in the future. But I want peace - and I don't want people to die in the
Source: Al Jazeera
Feedback Number of comments : 1
United States 09/12/2008
Al-Qaeda and its' followers want to keep women ignorant so that they cannot
challenge the status of the male dominated backward society. Education gives
people freedom that will open the eyes and minds of young and old . Al-Qaeda
and many religious leaders hides behind Islam to insure their control over the
Jusfiq Hadjar gelar Sutan Maradjo Lelo
Allah yang disembah orang Islam tipikal dan yang digambarkan oleh al-Mushaf itu
dungu, buas, kejam, keji, ganas, zalim lagi biadab hanyalah Allah fiktif.