Economy & Development

Ministry of Education reacts to “The Battle for the Schools”


Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education has issued an official statement in Dari in response to AAN’s latest report “The Battle for the Schools”, in which it refutes all substance of the report, calls its findings fabricated and assures the great Afghan nation of its tireless efforts and the impeccable Islamic credentials of its curriculum. The full text of the statement is well-worth reading, for a variety of reasons, and has been provided below.* The flat-out denial by the Ministry of realities on the ground** and the refusal to engage with the pertinent dilemmas that the report raises, as well as the language used, unfortunately does not bode well for the discussions that need to be had in the light of possible future talks with the Taleban leadership.

AAN’s latest report, by renowned scholars Antonio Giustozzi and Claudio Franco, analyses the trends in violence against schools since 2002 and explores the causes of the marked decrease in attacks since mid-2010. In-depth interviews with Taleban commanders and informed members of local communities in ten provinces point towards a combination of changing Taleban attitudes, under influence of strong community pressure, and the willingness of the Ministry of Education – both at the local and the central level – to meet Taleban demands with regard to changes in the curriculum and teacher vetting.

The Ministry of Education disagrees:

“the analysts of the mentioned report irresponsibly and shamelessly and without asking the views of the Ministry of Education stated that a deal has taken place between the Taliban and the government. … Apparently this report is a collection of some interviews with armed Taliban commanders and sub-commanders and narratives of local people in ten provinces that look totally artificial and fabricated.

From a journalistic point of view, this report is not professional and its reality is not confirmable, because they have not asked the opinion (approval or refusal) of the policymakers at the Ministry of Education, which is a serious professional violation and illustrates the irresponsibility, intention to undermine, grudge and malice of the preparers and trainers [sic] of this report.

The Ministry of Education of Afghanistan gravely rejects all the contents and details of the report and assures the brave and aware nation that it will not compromise the unprecedented, great and historic achievements of the education system with any person or any group, and warns those political brokers who have no credible cause for their slogans to be heard by the people and for whose demagoguery there is no demand, that they will not be able to smear the great achievements and activities of education with their fear and propaganda.”

The statement then proceeds to describe the educational achievements in heroic terms (“a great national wave … the greatest gathering of humanity … incomparable with anything in any system in the history of Afghanistan … an achievement that these analysts are blind and deaf to”) and provides an alternative narrative for the decrease in violence and the reopening of schools:

“The enemies of education, whether with the gun in their hand or with the pen in their hand, should know that all our people and our education-loving nation have been united in their support for education and the safety of their schools and scientific institutions and have been transformed into a great army. As a result of this unity the attacks on education institutions [have decreased]; without armed guards the aware and education-loving nation has defended and protected the educational institutions as a national honour.”

Apart from the strongly propagandistic and religious language of the statement, what is probably most notable is the fact that it seeks to portray those who diverge from the Ministry’s narrative as malicious and as “enemies of education”. It uses some unusual and imaginative terms in doing so:

“The published report, which is not more than a lie and that has no honesty in it, shows that there are still “necktie-wearers” and “ankle jewellery-wearers” who cannot tolerate the progress of education and who burn with jealousy and who regret that the burning of schools and the lack of access to education for children in the south has been stopped.”

But the main reason that the statement of the Ministry of Education is regrettable is not because of its hyperbole; it is because it represents a massive missed opportunity at a crucial time. The report – irrespective of whether one agrees with the details of the findings – provides an important opportunity to engage with some of the main dilemmas that will be involved, as the efforts to start substantive talks with the Taleban leadership, or their representatives, continue and accelerate.

The authors of the report have provided a striking example of a compromise that was successful in decreasing violence, but that may have come at a considerable cost. Not all the details are clear at this stage, nor are all the implications. Which is precisely why it is so important to seek to clarify rather than to cover up, to investigate rather than to posture, and to debate rather than to seek to silence. The question “at which price?” is going to become an increasingly important one that is best discussed openly.

 

* The Dari statement was circulated by email to journalists on 17 December 2011. Full text of the statement (unofficial translation):

Reaction of the Ministry of Education of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Regarding the report published by Afghanistan Analysts Network

December 2011 / Qows 1390

In this 29 page report titled “The Battle for the Schools, the Taliban and State Education” the main efforts of the authors and researchers of the report focus on two issues:

• Why are the Taliban not burning schools anymore?

To answer the question, the analysts of the mentioned report irresponsibly and shamelessly and without asking the views of the Ministry of Education stated that a deal has taken place between the Taliban and the government.

• Second, the report claimed that the Ministry of Education has agreed to bring changes to the curriculum, add religious subjects and also hire teachers from the Taliban side in insecure areas.

Apparently this report is a collection of some interviews with armed Taliban commanders and sub-commanders and narratives of local people in ten provinces that look totally artificial and fabricated.

From a journalistic point of view, this report is not professional and its reality is not confirmable, because they have not asked the opinion (approval or refusal) of the policymakers at the Ministry of Education, which is a serious professional violation and illustrates the irresponsibility, intention to undermine, grudge and malice of the preparers and trainers [sic] of this report.

The Ministry of Education of Afghanistan gravely rejects all the contents and details of the report and assures the brave and aware nation that it will not compromise the unprecedented, great and historic achievements of the education system with any person or any group, and warns those political brokers who have no credible cause for their slogans to be heard by the people and for whose demagoguery there is no demand, that they will not be able to smear the great achievements and activities of education with their fear and propaganda.

Education in Afghanistan today is irreversibly moving toward brightness, like a great national wave and the greatest gathering of humanity. It is a gathering of 9 million students, of which 3 million are noble girls, something that is incomparable with anything in any system in the history of Afghanistan. It is an achievement that these analysts are blind and deaf to and that they cannot judge.

The leadership of education with pride and dignity announces loudly that our movement and efforts toward expanding and sustaining the quality and appropriateness of the education and towards supplying this God given right to all will go ahead and we will remove all obstacles and barriers through legitimate and lawful efforts and we will pave the way for all eligible children of the country to be educated in all regular sciences. With the help of God our attempts and jehad over the past two years have resulted in the reopening of the doors of 600 schools to the innocent children of this country and right now hundreds of building and construction projects are underway in areas that were considered insecure.

The enemies of education, whether with the gun in their hand or with the pen in their hand, should know that all our people and our education-loving nation have been united in their support for education and the safety of their schools and scientific institutions and have been transformed into a great army. As a result of this unity the attacks on education institutions [have decreased]; without armed guards the aware and education-loving nation has defended and protected the educational institutions as a national honour.

With regard to the education curriculum, the [educational] system and the serving [khedmatgar] curriculum has been drafted fully according to the enlightened orders of the holy religion of Islam, the articles of the Constitution, the accredited scientific standards, and the spirit of love for Islam and the nation; none of its parts or chapters oppose Islamic orders, laws or national interests; it has been prepared and drafted by the most senior and qualified ulema of the country, so there is no room for compromise. The education curriculum is not a commodity to be given in the hands of small children fostered by them to exchange for materials, in fact this curriculum is a treasure and a work of scientific research by committed intellectuals who have drafted it responsibly and have submitted it in order to teach muslim children in a good way.

The education curriculum is not a piece of text that can be written and applied by the agents and servants of destructive networks that are enemies of the country, this national treasure has been crafted by our national thought and our national effort.

However, our scientific interpretation of the education curriculum is that it is a changeable and developing phenomenon, which is based on the requirements of the time will be changed and perfected.

The education slogan “Education for all” is not only a slogan and a vision, but is the interpretation of the Hadith that says “Education is obliged for both Muslim men and women.” Therefore, the Ministry of Education sees itself bound by its legal and religious obligation, in the light of the orders of Sharia, the articles of the law and the high interests of the country, to protect its material and moral values and to guide this caravan to its destination in order to guarantee a satisfactory and honourable future for this dear country and respected generation.

The published report, which is not more than a lie and that has no honesty in it, shows that there are still “necktie-wearers” and “ankle jewellery-wearers” who cannot tolerate the progress of education and who burn with jealousy and who regret that the burning of schools and the lack of access to education for children in the south has been stopped; with every passing day the legitimacy and development of the schools is expanding and progressing in this war-ravaged geography.

The enemies of education who are sitting in their offices and sitting in their shops should know that it is our duty to deliver the God given and natural right to education; we will do our this job seriously and committedly with the support of the merciful and almighty God and with a victorious and proud soul.

May the rightful carriers of science of education be prosperous and victorious.

Faruq Wardak

Minister of Education

** There is no disagreement over the fact that violence against schools has decreased or that Taleban attitudes towards education seem to be changing, possibly at the highest level – the Ministry of Education has argued both at different times. The Ministry however denies to have been in direct contact with the insurgents, even though communities and officials at the local level concede that schools are reopened only after consultation with and agreement by the Taleban.

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Thematic Category: Economy & Development