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PAN (Translated by RAWA), July 31, 2008

Instead of education, students of Sheikh Ali are forced to harvest beans and potatoes!

The parents of students have repeatedly complained about their children’s mistreatment by the school staff but they do not see any improvements.

Muhammad Hassan Khaleqi

In 35 schools of Sheikh Ali district of Parwan province almost half of 8000 students are forced in hard labor such as planting and harvesting wheat and potatoes, collecting harvested beans and irrigating the land.

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RAWA: Enrollment of 6 million children to school is always trumpeted as the biggest achievement of Afghan government in the past 7 years, but the real condition of education in Afghanistan is reflected in this report.

Some parents do not send their children to school as a result of their exploitation by the heads and teachers, especially during school hours.

Sheikh Ali district is located 100 km from Charikar, the centre of Parwan province. The responsibility of these 35 schools is under 190 teachers and despite these bad conditions, 2800 of the 8000 students are girls.

Ali Ahmad, a farmer in the Sadeq area of Sheikh Ali district, enrolled his two sons, Ghulam Sakhi and Dad Khuda in school 6 years ago with a hope that they would not end up farming like him but now their father dropped them from 6th grade so as to become shepherds.

Ali Ahmad said, “I sent my sons to school to study but some days teachers do not come and other days when they do, they force them to work on their land, so I thought that it would be better if my sons would work for me than the teachers.”

Ghulam Sakhi, the 16-year-old son of Ali Ahmad has a stick in his hand instead of a pen and herds 200 sheep for 8 to 10 hours in the mountains of Kotak Wadiwalak everyday and when he returns, he sharply resembles a shepherd’s son.

Ghulam Sakhi was really interested in school and was smarter than his other class-fellows but instead of studying in school, he was sent to harvested potatoes and collected beans in the land of teachers. This made his father very hopeless until one day he dropped him off from school forever so he could work with him.

This act of exploitation by heads and teachers is not something new. It was a practice about 25 to 30 years back but then the school staff realized their grave mistake and took steps in stopping it.

Charikar’s Director of Education released a warning to all the 35 schools after an interview with PAN which said that any staff member caught being involved in this business; the head of the school would be responsible for it.

A number of experts of Education in Charikar, pinpoints lack of strict observation and control system by Parwan Administration of Education as the main cause for this mistreatment of the students but the administrators do not agree.

Abdul Zahoor Hakim, the director of Parwan Administration of Education denies the lack of observation and control but agrees their failure in controlling the 35 schools of Sheikh Ali district.

He believes that their failure is due to the remote location and the absence of any media coverage of this district.

But the teachers of the Sheikh Ali schools believe that making the students work in the fields actually helps in their education.

Muhammad Ali, a teacher of Physics and Chemistry in Imam Jafar Sadeq High School thinks that exploiting these children for farming in their private lands is for the students’ benefit because the work that they do in one day equals to two or three days of a teacher’s or a head’s labor.

He said, “A teacher cannot come to school unless he finishes his work in his fields and students cannot study without a teacher but if all of them work together, both students and teachers would be able to go back to school.”

Half of Afghan children are still not going to school and the biggest group missing out on an education are girls, the United Nations said. "We still have 1.2 million girls of school age who do not have access to school in this country," Catherine Mbengue, head of UNICEF in Afghanistan, told the news conference
Reuters, April 21, 2008

The students are ordered by their heads or teachers a day before the work to bring their tools like wheelbarrow, spade, sickle and leaf-rakers and donkeys for transporting. In this way, the teachers or heads take the students to their lands by foot and the collective work continues till late in the afternoon.

Muhammad Hassan, a 12th grader in Nawi Sheikh Ali High School in Dahan Nirkh area was ordered by Muhammad Shah Murtazwi, the head of the school to bring his spade and wheelbarrow and the next day he and his class-fellows had to cover his land with human manure.

He said, “We worked from 8 in the morning till 4 in the evening covering his land with human manure from people’s wheelbarrows and that day everyone was making fun of us calling us school-going manure collectors.”

Habibullah, a 60-year-old farmer of Bani Saiwak area of Sheikh Ali district has a neighbor, Abdul Ahad, who is a teacher in Hazrat Ali Middle School in Daray Nirkh area and he has witnessed him with a group of students every time he goes to work on his land.

He said, “I wish I was a teacher so I could harvest my wheat and potatoes for free through students!”

When the reporter was on his way to Nawi Sheikh Ali High School he noticed a group of students planting beans under the scorching sun. When he asked about the reason and purpose of them planting beans, all of them grew silent except for Muhammad Akbar.

Muhammad Akbar, a 9th grader of Nawi Sheikh Ali High School stated that under the orders of their school head, he, along with his 11 class-fellows was told to dig channels through two acres of his land and plant beans neatly.

The parents of students have repeatedly complained about their children’s mistreatment by the school staff but they do not see any improvements.

Khadem Hussain is the father of a 7th grader in Hazrat Ali Middle School in Sheikh Ali district and says that instead of studying, his son is busy working in the fields of the school staff. He has tried to drop his son from school several times but then changed his mind believing his son’s work as a service to the teachers.

He says, “My son is in 7th grade but does not know how to write his name. The teachers are uneducated themselves and lock the students in the classrooms while they sit relaxing in the staff room.”

Working on the private lands of the school staff is something obligatory on all students, even under the age of 10. Failing to do so, they are punished severely.

Abid-ul-din is a 12-year-old 6th grader in Nawi Sheikh Ali High School. Two years back he was ordered by the school head to harvest the wheat but due to the strong sun, he ran away from there as he was unable to work.

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He said, “I did not go to school for several days because I was scared of my headmaster as he punished children escaping the work on the fields.”

The forced labor on students has badly affected the educational system in the schools of Sheikh Ali district and education faces many challenges which are intensified by a low literacy rate and the failure of implementing a proper curriculum.

A 12th grader tells that he would be unable to give the Cancour Examinations because his level of education does not qualify to the level of the exam and the university.

Muhammad Ibrahim says that last year they were only able to study 30 pages of the 190 paged tough trigonometry book as they worked in the fields half of the school year without getting any pays.

Muhammad Shah Murtazwi, the headmaster of Nawi Sheikh Ali High School accepts the fact that students are exploited by the teachers for working in their fields for quite some time but says that from next year onwards, they would not be allowed to do so.

After his interview with the headmaster, the reporter continues his investigation and visits some private lands of the headmaster himself in Dasht Nawi area of Sheikh Ali district when he finds a school’s servant ploughing his fields.

Seeing the reporter, he was frightened and requested not to mention his name. He stated that the headmaster had 30 acres of land and all the work in his fields are done by students and he has not hired any farmers.

The servant, who seemed annoyed by the headmaster, said, “I am not the school’s servant but headmaster’s home servant.”

When asked about exploiting the school’s servant for his work in fields, Muhammad Shah Murtazwi said that since he had some paper work to do, he requested his servant to plough his lands.

He did not seem bothered on mistreating the school servant but rather said that they are all acquainted with a special expertise in ploughing the land.

This report was published by Pajhwok Afghan News on July 28, 2008 in Persian. The translation into English is by RAWA.

Category: RAWA News, Children, Poverty, Education - Views: 26713


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