Students are attending the mid-year exams in Charmgar secondary school in Trin Not, Uruzgan. The school was cleared from the Taliban and NRC is rebuilding it. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
AFGHANISTAN

Ahmed can finally start school

Ahmed, 11, is lucky. He is no longer among the 3.7 million Afghan children who are out of school.

Children are the key to Afghanistan’s future but are increasingly a casualty of the conflict. Despite tremendous gains in rebuilding the public education system – particularly for girls – over the last two decades, the number of children out of school is on the rise for the first time since 2002. An estimated 3.7 million boys and girls – nearly half of all school-aged children – are out of school.

Read caption OCCUPIED. In Charamgar, some five kilometres north of Tirin Kot, the secondary school was occupied and used as a checkpoint by the Taliban for almost six months in 2015–16. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has now repaired parts of the school, and the children and teachers can get back to work, but the school doesn’t have the space to accommodate the same number of students as before.

AFGHANISTAN/Uruzgan: There is a short break between classes. Ahmed, 11, and a couple of his classmates have sat down to work on their lessons. They have lost several years of schooling. Now that they are finally back in school, they have no time to lose.

We are in Charamgar, about five kilometres north of Tirin Kot in southern Afghanistan. In 2015, Ahmed’s school was occupied and used as a checkpoint by the Taliban. When the Taliban were finally pushed back and school resumed, the students and teachers returned to nothing more than an empty shell. All of the roofing, windows and doors had been either destroyed or stolen.

New hope for peace and a brighter future

About 300 students and a few dozen teachers have crammed into the least damaged parts of the building and are doing their best to keep the school going.

This spring, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) stepped forward and carried out some basic repair work on this and three other schools in the same area.

In 2018, NRC ensured that 80,500 children and young people could receive an education in Afghanistan.

Due to the tense security situation, we have chosen not to use Ahmed or the other children’s real names. Now their smiles have returned, and they are looking forward to finally being back at school. But there is fear hiding behind the smiles. The peace is fragile, and no one knows for sure whether the fighting will flare up or whether the school will again become part of the battlefield. By negotiating with the parties to the conflict and repairing the school, NRC has brought new hope for peace – and a brighter future.

This is Charamgar secondary school some 5KM on the northern side of Trinkot, Uruzgan Province. This school was occupied and used as a checkpoint by the Taliban for almost six months in 2015/16, but the school remain shut for whole academic year.  When the the Taliban were moved back and school resumed again, all the roofing, boundary walls and gates were either destroyed or was stolen. 

NRC stepped forward and started doing some basic security upgrading to this and some three other schools in and around Trin Kot. The work includes; Iron sheets for the roofing of schools, installing emergency gates, main gates, building boundaries walls, grill work, windows repairing, glasses and blast films for the windows. NRC also established a schools-based Protection Committee (SBPCs) for each school with support and participation of PED, Community shura.

The school activities are closely monitored and checked by the community people, PED and the community has also been accountable to protect the schools from future expected incidents and they are also encouraging the families to get their children to school.

Repairing work and studies continues in this school and currently around 15 staff are teaching some 600 students in two different shifts.

“We feel more safe and secure now after building the boundary walls and installing the gates. Now, we have bigger yard and students can play inside the school building. The boundary is also keeping safe from any attack and flying bullets,” said Nida Mohammad, the Chramgar school principle.
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption TWO SHIFTS. Repair work and study continue side by side in this school in Charamgar. Currently around 15 staff are teaching some 600 students, in two different shifts.

NRC is the only NGO in the area

Among other things, NRC has provided new roofing, windows and doors, as well as gates and boundary walls around the school. NRC has also established a school-based protection committee for each school.

“We feel safer and more secure now after building the boundary walls and installing the gates. Now, we have a bigger school playground where the students can play and feel safe. The high and sturdy boundary walls also provide protection against any attacks or flying bullets,” explains Nida Mohammad, the headteacher of the school in Charamgar.

In Uruzgan, NRC is the only international organisation on the ground providing support and assistance to protect education.
TURYALAY SAHEEM, NRC’s education coordinator in Afghanistan

There is a great need for education funding, but resources are very limited.

“In Uruzgan Province, there are very few NGOs who are active, and they have little by way of resources or funding to support the rebuilding of schools and pay the teachers. NRC is the only international organisation on the ground providing support and assistance to protect education,” says Turyalay Saheem, NRC’s education coordinator in Afghanistan.

“Thousands of girls and boys would have studied here if there was enough funding to rebuild the school,” he says, exasperated.

This is Charamgar secondary school some 5KM on the northern side of Trinkot, Uruzgan Province. This school was occupied and used as a checkpoint by the Taliban for almost six months in 2015/16, but the school remain shut for whole academic year.  When the the Taliban were moved back and school resumed again, all the roofing, boundary walls and gates were either destroyed or was stolen. 

NRC stepped forward and started doing some basic security upgrading to this and some three other schools in and around Trin Kot. The work includes; Iron sheets for the roofing of schools, installing emergency gates, main gates, building boundaries walls, grill work, windows repairing, glasses and blast films for the windows. NRC also established a schools-based Protection Committee (SBPCs) for each school with support and participation of PED, Community shura.

The school activities are closely monitored and checked by the community people, PED and the community has also been accountable to protect the schools from future expected incidents and they are also encouraging the families to get their children to school.

Repairing work and studies continues in this school and currently around 15 staff are teaching some 600 students in two different shifts.

“We feel more safe and secure now after building the boundary walls and installing the gates. Now, we have bigger yard and students can play inside the school building. The boundary is also keeping safe from any attack and flying bullets,” said Nida Mohammad, the Chramgar school principle.
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption AMONG THE LUCKY ONES. Ahmed and his schoolmates are among the lucky ones. Many children are still waiting for their schools to be repaired and for school to become a safe place to be again. Several areas are now becoming safer, but the humanitarian aid organisations lack funding.

Every day, hundreds of children are forced to flee their homes due to insecurity and violence in Afghanistan, thus interrupting their education. Many displaced children are unable to enrol in school due to lack of space or because they have trouble obtaining the necessary documentation – or because they need to work in order to provide for their families.

Read also the story: If you're a 13-year-old living in Afghanistan

A report published by NRC last year revealed that more than half of children didn’t feel safe at school. Twelve per cent of children had experienced attacks on their schools, and many had missed exams or periods of schooling because of attacks or threats from armed groups.

Uruzgan Province in the southern part of Afghanistan is one of the areas that is heavily contested by both parties to the conflict.

View of Shamali Sola primary school that was occupied by militans than by the Afghan forces and completely destroyed. This was the school in Nachin village and as the school is closed, hundreds of girls and boys are deprived from education. 

There is too much need for education funding but resources are very much limited in Uruzgan province, there are very few local NGOs who are working in Uruzgan province with very less sources and funding to support building schools. NRC is the only international actor on the ground providing support and assistance protecting education. 

“We are expecting more funds for Uruzgan province to be able support and reopen schools like this. There are tens of this school and a little funding can change the life of thousands of girls and boys forever,” Said Turyalay Saheem, NRC’s education coordinator. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption SCHOOLS IN RUINS. A view of Shamali Sola Primary School in Nachin village, which was occupied first by militants, then by Afghan forces, and completely destroyed. Now the school is closed, and hundreds of girls and boys are being deprived of an education.

Attacks on schools

Schools, teachers and students are increasingly the target of attacks and intimidation. In 2018, approximately 700 schools were destroyed, damaged or occupied by armed groups or Afghan and international military forces, or were closed due to the conflict – leaving more than 325,000 children unable to attend school.

It is not uncommon to see schools being used as checkpoints and forward operating bases for armed forces. This worsens the security situation for civilians and results in major damage to school buildings.
ANTHONY NEAL, NRC’s advocacy manager in Afghanistan

“It is not uncommon to see schools being used as checkpoints and forward operating bases for armed forces. This worsens the security situation for civilians and results in major damage to school buildings. As elections approach over the coming months, we expect even more attacks on schools – as many are used as polling centres. We have been advocating for the protection of education in Afghanistan for the past three years and we will continue to do so,” says Anthony Neal, NRC’s advocacy manager in Afghanistan.

Read also the story: When schools become targets

Christopher Nyamanadi, country director for NRC and Turyalay Saheem, the education coordinator is visiting the Charamgar secondary school and talking to the school principle and community heads. 

NRC is the only international organization working in Uruzgan province with limited resources. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption COOPERATION. NRC’s country director, Christopher Nyamanadi (right) and Turyalay Saheem (centre) in conversation with Nida Mohammad, the headteacher of the Charamgar school. Through confidence-building, close cooperation and negotiations with all parties to the conflict, NRC has managed to gain access to new areas that were previously strongly affected by conflict and violence.

“To be able to operate in Chora District, we had to negotiate with both parties. Now, we have gained both trust and acceptance, and have managed to gain humanitarian access to an area where relief workers previously struggled to reach out with help. That makes it all the more disappointing when there is no will or ability to fund our efforts,” says Anthony Neal.

Read more about NRC in Afghanistan

People we helped in Afghanistan in 2018

80,541
people benefited from our education programme
131,414
people benefited from our food security programme
35,392
people benefited from our shelter programme
99,461
people benefited from our camp management programme
110,287
people benefited from our ICLA programme
28,648
people benefited from our WASH programme