The Ongoing Battle for Education. Uprisings, Negotiations and Taleban Tactics
Girls actually in the classroom. Getting Afghan children, especially girls, to school, has been considered a major success story for post-Taleban Afghanistan, but how many children appearing in the statistics are ‘ghosts'? (Photo: Christine-Felice Roehrs)
In a follow-up to a December 2011 report, AAN revisits the ongoing negotiations between the Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Taleban. The earlier report, ‘The Battle for Schools: The Taleban and State Education’, focused on the changing Taleban attitudes towards Afghanistan’s state schools, allowing for the opening of schools in some of the areas under their control, and the negotiations with the MoE.
In this new report, ‘The Ongoing Battle for Education; Uprisings, Negotiations and Taleban Tactics’, the authors Antonio Giustozzi and Claudio Franco explore what has happened since. They found that in the year after the release of the report, talks between the Taleban and the MoE had stalled and the number of schools that were being reopened had started to dip.
The picture was further complicated when a Taleban decision to close the schools in Ghazni led to an anti-Taleban ‘uprising’ in spring 2012, followed by similar uprisings in other provinces. The report discusses the uprisings in three provinces – Ghazni, Wardak and Nangarhar – and how they highlighted the tensions between the Taleban and locals, who said that some of the schools were being used for Taleban recruitment and indoctrination.
When discussing violence against educational institutions, the Taleban leadership denied involvement, claiming that it had banned attacks on school buildings (although it did allow school closures and attacks on education officials), instead pointing the finger at ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and rogue groups. Commanders on the ground have however admitted to carrying out at least some of the attacks on schools in Afghanistan.
As AAN’s research details, part of the complication of studying the Taleban’s education policy lies in the dual management structure that has resulted in two separate education commissions, one in Quetta and one in Peshawar. The two commission have separate, but overlapping spheres of influence and rarely coordinate with each other.
Though the Peshawar commission sees education as a right, it has subjected that right to several conditions, including the banning of English-language education to girls, mixed gender instruction and the exclusion of teachers seen as hostile to the group. Since 2011, AAN has learned of at least one extra condition – a requirement that teachers report directly to the Taleban.
Ministry of Education officials provided detail of the ongoing negotiations with the Taleban and Hezb-e-Islami. According to the MoE, the Peshawar commission remained open to the idea of an agreement between the ministry and the Taleban. Like the Taleban, the MoE blamed efforts to thwart the negotiations on foreign elements.
Even with the ‘uprisings’ and the stalled negotiations, the talks between the MoE and the Taleban never fully faltered. However, though some areas saw schools re-opening, others were faced with school closures. These conflicting events raise the question whether the Peshawar commission’s more positive attitude towards education can indeed be taken to be indicative of larger Taleban thinking.
AAN Briefing Paper 02/2013
Release date: 10 June 2013