In a small, sunlit parlor last week, 20 little girls seated on rush mats sketched a flower drawn on the blackboard. In a darker interior room, 15 slightly older girls memorized passages from the Koran, reciting aloud. Upstairs was a class of teenage girls, hidden from public view.
The location of the mud-walled home school is semi-secret. Its students include five girls who once attended another home school nearby that was torched three months ago. The very existence of home-based classes is a direct challenge to anti-government insurgents who have attacked dozens of schools across Afghanistan in the past year, especially those that teach girls.
"We are scared. All the home schools are scared. If I even hear a dog bark, I don't open the gate. I go up on the roof to see who is there," said Mohammed Sulieman, 49, who operates home schools for girls in several villages in the Sheikhabad district of Wardak province.
Children's education was once touted as an exceptional success in this struggling new democracy. Within two years of the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that banned girls' education and emphasized Islamic studies for boys, officials boasted that 5.1 million children of both sexes were enrolled in public schools. These included hundreds of village tent-schools erected by UNICEF.
Now that positive tide has come to a halt in several provinces where Taliban insurgents are aggressively battling NATO and U.S. troops, and has slowed dramatically in many other parts of the country. President Hamid Karzai told audiences in New York this week that about 200,000 Afghan children had been forced out of school this year by threats and physical attacks.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Nice Job, Bu$hCo
Too bad you didn't finish it.