LONDON – The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is beyond outrageous. Sadly, it is just the latest battle in a savage war being waged against the fundamental right of all children to an education. That war is global, as similarly horrifying incidents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia attest.
Around the world, there have been 10,000 violent attacks on schools and universities in the past four years, according to a report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. The evidence is as ample as it is harrowing, from the 29 schoolboys killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian state of Yobe earlier this year and Somali schoolchildren forced to become soldiers to Muslim boys attacked by ethnic Burmese/Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar and schoolgirls in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been firebombed, shot, or poisoned by the Taliban for daring to seek an education.
Afghanistan’s state-run schools are experiencing a renaissance, with some reopening for the first time in nearly a decade. Acid attacks on girls, murdered teachers, bombings of classrooms - these are on the decline.
But the reason for these openings is not because Nato and Afghan forces are winning the war for security. Rather, it’s because the Afghan government, unable to bring security where needed, has begun to rely on secret agreements that give the Taliban greater say in the country’s education.
[KABUL, AFGHANISTAN] | The newly constructed Ghazi High School was inaugurated today [October 23, 2011] by both Afghan and U.S. government officials, including H.E. Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak and U.S. Deputy Ambassador James B. Cunningham. Funded through USAID’s Kabul Schools Program, 5,400 students will be able to study in the rebuilt school.
USAID created the Kabul Schools Program to support the Ministry of Education’s ambitious plans to expand quality and access to education, and when the program finishes in 2012, the Ministry will have the capacity to serve the educational needs of more than 12,000 boys and girls in greater Kabul City.
[AFGHANISTAN] Millions of girls have entered school in Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It is one of the few good news stories of the last nine years. However, the deteriorating security situation and the international community’s focus on stabilization and counter-insurgency rather than on long-term development means this good news story is in danger of turning bad. A new approach from both the Afghan government and donors is urgently required to hold onto the gains that have been made.