School Closures Should Not Become the Norm

The most recent figures published regarding the literacy rate in Afghanistan are from the last years of the Islamic Republic. These figures are considered to be relatively accurate due to the war, lack of transparency and resources, and at best, provide a picture that is close to reality. It is estimated that the literacy rate of the Afghan people is around 38%, despite the relative efforts made in the two decades between the two Taliban emirates. The education index, which is a combination of the adult literacy rate and the admission rate of elementary, middle and high schools, provides a better indication of the country’s situation. In developed countries, this index is point nine or higher, while the global average rate is point seven. Afghanistan is one of the lowest ranked countries, with an index of point four.

For nearly two years, we have been forced down a shameful staircase at gunpoint and on the orders of the Emiratis. A large portion of the country’s inhabitants are officially barred from education, and the rest suffer from numerous deprivations due to the rulers’ animosity towards non-madrasa education. Teacher shortages, stifling alterations to the curriculum, and widespread anti-educational propaganda have effectively crippled the education system. The de-education and promotion of madrasas and quasi-educational projects have exacerbated the downward trend of education. Investments in curriculum development and educational infrastructure have ceased, and the private education market is shrinking daily under the weight of onerous regulations and decreased demand.

Afghans recognize the relationship between quality education and economic growth, social welfare, political authority, and cultural development, except for the Taliban and those who oppose education, because there is a strong desire for education throughout the country. However, the reactions against the anti-educational policies of the Taliban have not been satisfactory. It appears that those who have suffered from years of insecurity, instability and unprecedented terrorism, and have been exhausted by decades of war and killing, are willing to make great sacrifices, including the literacy of their children, in order to ensure the safety of their lives, at least in the short term. This is a painful and costly burden to bear. Becoming accustomed to closed schools will not bring security and peace, but will lead the society to irreparable insecurities. At a time when the rest of the world is advancing rapidly in the fields of education, research and development, we seem to have “tolerated” the opposition to the reactionary movement that pushes the society backwards and we are left with the pity of the Taliban and the support of foreigners.

In order to gain an understanding of our progress and shortcomings in comparison to the rest of the world, it is beneficial to consider the value placed on education and the investment made to improve it in other countries. According to the official page of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the thirty-seven members of the organization spent an average of 17,560 US dollars per school student in 2019. Some countries had invested up to 25 thousand dollars. Of this amount, nearly two-thirds was used for teacher salaries, infrastructure development, teaching materials and management, and the remaining third was allocated to research and development. In fact, in that year, these countries spent an average of six thousand dollars per school student in order to improve their educational system, enhance the curriculum and increase the effectiveness of education. The results are clear. Those who, after laying down their weapons and war machines, have caused destruction to our nation and are targeting the symbols of awareness and freedom, are hungry and eagerly await the arrival of packages of dollars from countries that do not de-educate like the Taliban, to have cars that are made by those who went to school, and to feel strong with the guns made by those who went to school.

We must remain sensitive to anti-scholasticism and strive to eliminate any impediments to education and freedom. This is of the utmost importance.