Tuesday, Nov. 17—Armed gunmen broke into a school in Farah Province’s Pusht-e-road District today, holding the guard at gunpoint and setting the building afire, ending for now the education of its 1,200 students, as a sign of growing tension over the future of education in Afghanistan.
Nearby residents criticized as cowardly the burning of the school building as well as desks and chairs. “We condemn this action,” said resident Mohammed. “It not allowed in Islam to destroy the schools and mosques. God won’t forgive the people who did and do this kind of work.”
But as a bright spot, two schools, including one for girls, have opened in recent months in the Zekan village of Anardara and the Hour village of Pusht-e-koh, costing the equivalent of $200,000 USD and paid for by the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Nawid, a tenth grade student, said the gunmen who burned the school “do not have information about Islam and its principles. As Prophet Mohammad said, learning is essential for all Muslim men and women. So God forbids setting fire to schools where students are going to learn about Islam and the country.”
“It would be better to join in with the reconstruction of Afghanistan instead of destroying it,” said Rahim, 20, a Farah Province resident. “We must work to rebuild our country, not set fire to the schools. I hope the Education Department will respond and rebuild this school very soon, since the students do lose their hopes.”
The head of the Farah Education Department, Atiqullah, said 18 classes were being held at the burned school, and he warned, “It will take time to reopen.”
He also noted the newly constructed schools “fourteen classrooms and have space for 500 students in each village.”
Farah students said they were pleased about the new schools but did express concern about protecting them.
“As an Afghan student, I appreciate those people who built schools for girls and boys in the districts of Farah,” said Fahiam, a tenth grade student at Malaga Miwand Girls’ School. “I also condemn the act of insurgency that burned the school in the Pusht-e-road District.”
About 128 primary schools, 99 middle schools, and 46 high schools for girls and boys are currently open in Farah Province, and about six middle schools were upgraded to high schools in the province this year.