Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, January 23, 2017

Educating Afghanistan's Children : Or So We Think

"Canada is currently undertaking the necessary due diligence to ensure that in the event that Canada's funds have been misappropriated, that such funds are recovered and that the guilty parties are held to account."
"Canadian funds provided to EQUIP are administered by the World Bank through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund." 
"Canada's longstanding support to education in Afghanistan has contributed, along with other donors, to more than 8.4 million Afghan children being enrolled in formal and community-based schools, 39 percent of whom are girls."
Jessica Seguin, spokeswoman, Global Affairs Canada

"Earlier this month, the Minister of Education Assadullah Hanif Balkhi said that a recent study found that only six million Afghan children are in fact at school -- contrary to the 11 million as previously stated by the former government [of previous Prime Minister Hamid Karzai]."
Report, TOLOnews, Afghanistan

"[Allegations of nonexistent] ghost students, teachers and schools [in Afghanistan are not new, in a country swept by corruption]. [A report issued in January by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), points to a] high risk list [vulnerable to] significant waste, fraud and abuse."
"Corruption continues to be one of the most serious  threats to the U.S.-funded Afghanistan reconstruction effort."
"SIGAR has launched a new ARTF performance audit to assess the extent to which the World Bank and the Afghan government monitor and account for U.S. contributions to the ARTF, evaluate whether ARTF-funded projects have achieved their stated goals and objectives, and utilize and enforce any conditionality on ARTF funding."
"There may be problems with student and teacher absenteeism that warrant further investigation by the Afghan government."
U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Yasamina, 14  "I fetch water every day - it takes about an hour. But, I also go to my school. I walk with my 
friends for four kilometres every day but I like walking to my school with my friends. I want to be a nurse when 
I finish my school here." BBC News

At one time the ruling Taliban issued an edict that Afghan girls had no need of education, and only boys were permitted to attend schools. Neither were women permitted to be seen outside their homes without wearing an all-enveloping burqa that also covered their faces, allowing eyes to peer out from behind a netting on the top half of the niqab, or veil. Women were not permitted to work, even if there was no one else to support them financially, even if they had dependent children. Men were expected not to shave their facial hair. Music was not permitted, nor was celebratory gatherings.

After the ouster of the Taliban, when the U.S.-led NATO mission to find Osama bin Laden and disperse both al-Qaeda and their supporters the Taliban from Afghanistan, the international mission undertook a transformation of Afghan society. Schools were built and medical clinics were established; where previously girls were not permitted to study, schools were built solely for girls to attend, and no longer would male physicians be restricted from treating female patients, nor female physicians forced to wear burqas themselves, while undertaking surgical procedures.

Humanitarian aid organizations flooded into Afghanistan with the intention of serving its people. Afghan women, now permitted to work, did just that, priding themselves on their new freedom and determined to move forward. And the international community, preparing to leave Afghanistan, invested in training Afghan police and the military to Western standards to enable them to meet conflict situations in self-defense. In the process, discovering how deeply-engrained corruption in Afghanistan was, permeating the entire society.

Current President Ashraf Ghani had campaigned for the presidency several years back, with one of his primary promises being to sweep endemic corruption out of Afghanistan. Had the U.S. agency not delved deeply into the problem of unaccountability and corruption in the education ministry, in preparation for a presentation of an updated report for the new American administration, the depth to which the ministry was corrupted might never have been fully revealed, even though the Afghan government had arrested workers in the ministry for embezzlement at an earlier date.

Mohammad Zaman, 13, studies in Sherzad high school. He says most
of his schoolmates study in the open 
air because there are not many 
rooms in his school which is over-crowded. "I want to study wherever I can, I wish we had rooms but I learn a lot of things every day. I want to be an engineer in the future." BBC News

Half the number of children that the previous government of Afghanistan under former president Hamid Karzai, reported to be attending school, actually did. International aid for that specific purpose has been set aside, purloined and found its way into the pockets and bank accounts of various Afghan officials, to the detriment of Afghanistan's children. What the Taliban did in depriving the children of Afghanistan, particularly the girls, of an education, as an institutional edict, the trusted and legally, democratically elected government has carried forward through inattention to the funding dispersal and the actual implementation of what the funding was meant to accomplish.

Billions of dollars representing international aid are unaccounted for. The issue of "widespread corruption", now front and centre again will have consequences in the international community which had expectations that its dedicated efforts and its treasury meant to fund an impoverished and embattled nation would have positive results for the future, not enrich corrupt officials. The result of which will be felt on future investments in the country.

These boys walk to Kodi Khel village from a nearby mountain. They say they walk in a group and rest on the way every day. They cross rivers and mountainous valleys before they arrive at Sherzad high school. BBC News

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