Mat classes and clandestine schools for women in rural Taliban Afghanistan | International
is the headline of the news that the author of WTM News has collected this article. Stay tuned to WTM News to stay up to date with the latest news on this topic. We ask you to follow us on social networks.
The Shafiqa, Amina, Robina or Ariana girls and the Aminullah, Zulmy, Zabiullah or Mohammed Irfan boys live in a remote village in southeastern Afghanistan where there is no school. Sitting on mats -they in front and the men behind-, a hundred minors attend class on a rocky outcrop. A motorcycle, equipped with a colorful blue shed powered by solar panels, serves as a mobile school in Spin Boldak, a district of the province of Kandahar, in Afghanistan, abutting the border with Pakistan. Professor Mohamed Daud, 31, motivates the students, who quickly raise their hands when they are addressed in the name of Allah. Daud hands them the wireless microphone so that everyone can hear each other in the middle of the esplanade. “The situation in the country will change only if the future generation is educated,” says Daud, who has been teaching as a volunteer for four years.
So far, there are only two of these school contraptions. It looks like a spaceship just landed in the middle of the dust that dominates the brown landscape of the town of adobe houses. It has, on one side, an electronic screen and, on the other, a library. In front, the motorcycle that drives the makeshift school designed by the NGO Pen Path, which has been fighting since 2009 for education in rural Afghanistan. In these years, they have managed to create 46 new schools and reopen a hundred in 16 of the 34 provinces of the country, some of them in the areas most affected by the war, explains the founder of the organization, Matiullah Wesa, 30 years old. “Education belongs to the people, not to the Taliban or the government,” he defends. In Afghanistan there are 13 million children of school age; 4.2 million of them are not in school, according to Unicef data.
That a town like this, built from mud houses and without a meter of asphalt, does not have a school is not an extraordinary case in a country where even the most basic infrastructure suffers after more than four decades of war. That gap has widened since, a year ago, the Taliban imposed an Islamic Emirate, which prevents girls from continuing to attend school after high school; a unique ban in the world, according to the United Nations. For this reason, in addition to the mobile school, which began to circulate in May of this year, Pen Path also organizes clandestine schools with which they try to alleviate the fundamentalists’ veto on female education. The trajectory of this NGO, in a country where the wind blows permanently against it, despite the fact that the Taliban now hold power, is plagued by clashes with the authorities and with a population clinging to an atavistic conservatism.
In 2001, just after the Taliban had been banished from power, after a five-year rule by blood and fire, Matiullah Wesa’s father, Mohamed Khan, a tribal chief from Kandahar, decided to build a school in the Mrouf district. Despite the reluctance of part of the population, in 2003 the project worked with almost a thousand students, from half a dozen towns, who received classes under trees and tents or in mosques. Although precariously, it was the first time there had been a school in more than two decades. But in 2004 a group of armed men burned everything, says Wesa, to later remember the anger of his father, willing to continue, life or death, with that school. One night, the Taliban went to his house and threatened him: if he continued to defend education, they would kill him. It was then that the family was forced to take refuge in the Spin Boldak district, one of the places where the mobile school has started operating in recent months.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Matiullah Wesa, 30, ended up following in the footsteps of his father, who died in 2012. He founded the NGO Pen Path in 2009 with one of his brothers. Today they have some 3,000 collaborators in the 34 provinces of the country, among whom there are grassroots volunteers, businessmen or religious and tribal leaders. They do not receive institutional or foreign funding. “This is the best path for education, peace and human rights,” defends Wesa.
As for the clandestine schools: there are a total of 39 and they work thanks to 139 teachers. About 5,000 women receive training in them, almost all at the primary level, and also secondary school girls. To ensure that the project continues to function, the NGO does not provide further details or allow visits. At the same time, in 2018 they launched a door-to-door campaign to make families aware of the need for them to accept that women and girls go to school, because, beyond the Emirate’s decisions, extreme conservatism leads many families to facilitate only the education of boys. Wesa, with a convulsive resume for having suffered attacks, death threats, arrests and transfers to the police station, considers it an achievement to have obtained up to 22,000 signed permits from parents so that her daughters can attend class. In addition, Pen Path has launched the project a book for peace with 40 public libraries and 48 professors, two of them in Canada and another two in the US, who teach on-line.
Afghanistan today has a population of 41.7 million inhabitants, of which 54% are children, according to Unicef data. 97% of Afghans live in poverty; 92% do not have the necessary food, in addition to spending 90% of their income on food. 28% of girls, compared to 7% of boys, are married before the age of majority and in 13% of households there lives a child between the ages of 6 and 17 who works in difficult conditions, according to this agency of United Nations.
In the midst of this panorama, it is not little that the children of the stony area of the Spin Boldak district can attend class, even if it is on a mat and in the open air. Following the path marked by Islam, the lessons are packed with sayings and religious references: almost everything is learned in the name of Allah. Matiullah Wesa, the founder of Pen Path, is committed to this type of teaching, but, at the same time, he does against the exclusion of women and the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. Beyond the little ones who attend the improvised mobile school, not a single woman is seen in the town, a wasteland dominated by men and young people. Microphone in hand and standing, one of the children launches: “In the name of Allah, Afghanistan is the home of all of us. It is true that today we are all children, but, in the future, we will grow up and make a garden out of our wounds. Tomorrow, we will rebuild our country.” And everyone repeats hammering in chorus.
Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
read without limits