New York Daily News, November 10, 2016
U.S. spends millions on poorly attended, structurally unsound schools in Afghanistan
While officials reported an average enrollment of 2,639 students at each of the schools in the Herat province, only 561 students on average were found at each school
By Suad Patton-bey
Numerous U.S.-funded schools in Afghanistan are poorly attended and structurally unsound, and some lack basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, according to a watchdog report.
The report, written by John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, addresses observations from 25 schools in the province of Herat.
The schools were either built or rehabilitated using taxpayers' funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Through September, the United States has disbursed $868 million for education programs in Afghanistan.
The schools are operated by the Ministry of Higher Education.
Investigators at schools in Herat — Afghanistan's third-largest city — found absenteeism for students and teachers. While officials reported an average enrollment of 2,639 students at each of the schools in the Herat province, only 561 students on average were found at each school, or 23 percent of the reported numbers, according to the report.
Many of the inspected schools, which are operated by the Ministry of Higher Education, lacked basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, while others had structural deficiencies that interrupted the process of education, Sopko wrote.
Missing or broken doors and windows were also common.
USAID, in a written response to NBC News, claimed the site visits weren't enough to substantiate the claims from the SIGAR report.
Sopko fears corruption and security issues could undermine the positive impacts the United States has had in Afghanistan, especially as the Taliban regains influence in the country.
"We could lose it all and all the investment for the last 15 years if we don't get it right as we go forward," Sopko told NBC News.
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