The Taliban is constantly promoting the idea that the curriculum and teaching system in Afghanistan’s schools and religious schools is outdated and ineffective. Schools are divided into two categories here: religious schools and modern schools. The Taliban has used the phrase “worn out” for the religious school system and the adjective “useless” for the modern school system.
So far, the Taliban are correct. The curriculum of Afghan schools is full of challenges and mistakes. It has many spelling and composition mistakes that make it difficult for students to understand the textbook. On the other hand, some inaccuracies can be seen in these textbooks, including historical distortions. For instance, one of the most ridiculous examples is removing Ruhollah Nikpa’s name and photo from the list of Olympic medal winners of Afghanistan in the 11th-grade culture textbook. Rohullah Nikpai is Afghanistan’s first-ever and only Olympic medalist, whose achievement from the 2008 Summer Olympics of Beijing is mentioned in the 11th-grade culture textbook, but his name is not mentioned and his photo is not included either. It means that his achievement has been somehow attributed to someone else. In response to the protests, it was said at that time that the Ministry of Education did not have a high-quality photo of Rohullah Nikpai! that’s why it printed Nesar Ahmad Bahave’s image instead of his. Nesar Ahmad Bahave is another athlete who made it to the Olympics but couldn’t win a medal due to injury. This argument is as ridiculous as the removal itself.
When you read school history textbooks, it makes you feel and think that an Emir called his clerks and ordered each of them to rewrite history according to his (Emir’s) wish. You get the feeling that in this rewriting, they have removed what the Emir does not like and added what the Emir likes. The history textbooks that we read in Afghanistan, especially the history textbooks of classes 9 and 12; have made a hero out of the kings and rulers of Afghanistan, including Emir Abdur Rahman Khan; But they have not mentioned the crimes they have committed. At only a passing glance, you can find all these distortions and lies.
Now, if we ignore the baseless claims and forgeries in these textbooks, the challenges and problems that are brought up in these textbooks are not very up-to-date either. In some cases, critics have spoken about the outdatedness of the contents of these textbooks. Let alone the typographical and spelling mistakes that are incalculable in these textbooks.
On the contrary, traditional education is the main teaching of religious schools. But these schools use a much older system than the modern school system. The same old “Qaeda Baghdadi” [Old religious books teaching fundamentals of Arabic language rules for learning Islamic laws.] is still the basis of teaching students in these religious schools. When I was a teenager and learned to read with the Qaeda Baghdadi to some extent and then started the next textbook “Panj Ganj”, I did not know from where “پ، چ، ژ و گ” [Persian alphabet letters] had come in the poems of this book. You can imagine the whole situation from this simple example. In the past twenty years, even though some work was done to update the educational system of modern schools, nothing was done for religious schools. If we compare the two educational systems in Afghanistan; the modern and traditional systems, in this context, the textbooks of the modern school system are as modern and efficient as its name, and comparing the traditional school system to the modern system, the books of the traditional system cannot have anything to say at all. These two are not comparable at all. But in general, up to this point, the claim of the Taliban about the outdatedness and ineffective education system of religious schools and modern schools is true.
The issue arises when the educational reformers are the Taliban. Instead of correcting the eyebrow, they will blind the eye. Their background, their behavior, and their current actions are the true evidence. The Taliban are now talking about merging these two educational systems. They want to no longer have two separate institutions called the religious school and the modern school, but to be integrated into one system. Since the Taliban are against every modern phenomenon except their guns, and their opposition to modern education is not hidden, it can be predicted that this group seeks to close modern schools forever. Building thousands of schools in every corner of the country is also evidence that they want to fill the empty spaces of modern schools. However, these schools likely offer some modern education subjects that do not conflict with how the Taliban interpret religion and Sharia. A traditional religious school replaces the modern school, and modern education is replaced by traditional education. It is called progressing from top to bottom!
The Taliban will turn this institution into a breeding ground for terrorism and extremism by changing the curriculum. The schools will be linked to Deobandi schools in the neighboring country rather than educating students literately and with a broad perspective. Ideologizing education includes hiring Pakistani mullahs who have recently returned and their fighters to instruct in schools and universities. Even though the majority of these mullahs are illiterate in Pashto and Persian, they were hired due to their Taliban affiliation. They know that they are educating militants rather than future scholars, scientists, and professionals for this country.
Afghanistan’s society is very capable of being backward. This resource is fully utilized by the Taliban. They will make sure that Afghanistan maintains moving from top to bottom as much as they can. The most crucial and successful strategy in this work is to stop girls from going to school and to force boys away from modern education and into traditional education, which kills creativity in the student and turns him/her into parrot-like memorization. The student is not a questioner as a result of this educational system, on the other hand. Students learn to listen and obey in this system, which the Taliban cherish and strive to create in their ideal society. This type of society lacks all expressions of language, emotion, and reaction. It ties everything together. In such a society, “making” is alien, while “destroying” is a cherished and well-liked activity.
Leaving the global development caravan is another problem. Afghanistan can hardly look for other nations’ footsteps right now to draw its path from there, even if it is far away, to follow other societies. The situation will get significantly worse if the Taliban are successful in closing the modern school systems and constructing numerous traditional schools. Making barrel mines is the only technology a student will learn in these Talibanized schools. With the yellow books of Peshawar’s story-telling bazaar, it is impossible to become “literate” and discover a common language with the rest of human societies. These books cannot teach computer skills or help you move closer to a prosperous society.
The Taliban fighters’ ideology must be removed from Afghan education. It is now difficult to decide whether to want education or not because it is caught in the Taliban’s trap. People are unsure as to whether attending schools where the curriculum is created by the Taliban and whose fighters serve as professors is beneficial or harmful. If the Taliban manages to integrate modern schools into traditional schools and create a new curriculum based on their Sharia reading and ideology, learning will be on the verge of becoming “evil.” If this method is used, education will become a double-edged sword. In that case, people will think, getting away from it is the best option.
Saving education is a serious necessity. Every possible means should be used to prevent modern schools be vanished and traditional schools get into society. We should avoid the imprisoning of knowledge at any cost. Eliminating a modern school or converting it to a traditional religious school – even if the name remains a school – is only possible in a society whose rulers come from neighboring countries’ religious schools and call themselves “Talib.”.
The level of society’s understanding might then be closer to that of the Taliban because we might be going in a direction where we stop learning altogether.
Mohammad Ali Nazari-Editorial Board Member and Analyst, Hasht-e Subh Daily