Education Link to Afghan Insurgency

Taleban footsoldiers are typically the least educated members of society, Farah residents say.

Education Link to Afghan Insurgency

Taleban footsoldiers are typically the least educated members of society, Farah residents say.

Friday, 19 December, 2014

Farah province in western Afghanistan is the kind of place that provides the Taleban with plenty of recruits, according to speakers at a recent discussion event. The reason, they said, was because so few people have had proper schooling.

The provincial education department in Farah says only 18 per cent of a population of around 700,000 can read and write.

The insurgent presence, fed by a flow of ready recruits, creates a vicious circle since it means schools in outlying districts are unable to operate.

“Five districts in Farah are in the red security zone, and the state of literacy is a matter of great concern there,” Jawed Tabesh, head of a network of civil society groups in the province, said. “Wherever there is no literacy or civilisation, all sorts of catastrophes and violence become possible."

Another speaker in the debate, Amir Mohammad Ayubi, head of the provincial branch of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, argued that most insurgents were illiterate. None had enough religious education to qualify as a mullah or “maulavi” (scholar).

He said this had been observed to be the case with all the Taleban who had come over to the government side. Statistics show that of the 285 who had joined the peace process in the past four years, only five had achieved primary-school standard, and that only in religious education.

"Warfare is currently taking place in parts of Farah that have no schools, because these areas are very good recruiting grounds for the Taleban," he said.

At the event, held in the main provincial town, Farah, other speakers said families had a responsibility to stop their children becoming vulnerable to Taleban recruiters.

"It’s the duty of mothers not to allow their children to go uneducated,” Lailuma Sediqi, head of the provincial women's affairs department, said. "When people have high levels of knowledge and education, they can never be sold or become tools in the hands of foreigners."

Maulavi Abdul Ghafar, speaking on behalf of the government’s religious affairs department, said the Koran placed great emphasis on the value of education.

“If our society is educated, we will never witness suicide attacks and explosions outside our homes,” he said.

During the debate, education officials were accused of failing to get schools reopened.

Education department representative Humaira Azimi, countered that efforts to do so had foundered because the Afghan security services did not support them.

"When a district is unsafe, no one can open a school there,” she said. “That isn’t the job of the education minister or [provincial] director. It is a problem the security agencies need to resolve."

Audience member Khalay Akozai pointed out that where schools were open, most parents were preventing their daughters from attending.

Sediqi said a public awareness campaign was helping change attitudes.

“This problem has been eliminated almost entirely in the provincial centre and in the villages nearest to it. Boys and girls go to school together," she said.  

The importance of education was also discussed at a similar debate in neighbouring Helmand province.

"Illiteracy in one family, in a village, in a community, province, even a country can result in disaster and security problems,” said Shahnaz Faizi, who heads a group of women's NGOs in Helmand. “An educated husband and wife… will bring up children who make society prosper instead of weighing it down,” she said.

Asked by an audience whether literacy was more important than peace, Fauzia Durrani of the Women's Social Association in Helmand said the two were intertwined.

"Where peace exists, there will be literacy. Where there is literacy, there will be peace,” she said. “Peace and literacy are directly linked. People who are illiterate are easily fooled, whereas that happens very rarely to those who are educated and literate."

Another provincial official, Roya Karimi, head of literacy programmes in Helmand, concluded the debate by urging mothers to educate both themselves and their children.

"If you want to come out of the dark, if you want to live in peace, and if you want a fortunate and prosperous country, then educate your children and teach them to be literate so that they can tell the difference between good and bad," she said.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.


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