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Taliban ‘indirectly benefit’ from US education funding; SIGAR

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KABUL – The Taliban are indirectly gaining from U.S.-funded education assistance through various channels in Afghanistan, reveals a recent report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), highlighting the deterioration in both accessibility and quality of education following the Taliban’s takeover.

Taliban are benefiting from US funds through establishment of deceptive non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to receive donor aid and the infiltration and extortion of existing Afghan NGOs involved in educational support.

Notably, the report points out that this assistance inadvertently generates tax revenues for the Taliban. These funds primarily come from personal income taxes imposed on Afghans employed by U.S.-funded programs and sales tax income from goods acquired from landlords, contractors, and vendors. This situation has been highlighted in the report titled “Status of Education in Afghanistan: Taliban Policies Have Resulted in Restricted Access to Education and a Decline in Quality.”

The report emphasizes that the Taliban’s rise to power has led to a significant decline in education access and quality across Afghanistan. The Taliban’s education policies include banning girls from secondary education, enforcing gender segregation in schools, and restricting women teachers to girls’ primary schools, which has resulted in a notable decrease in secondary school student enrollments since August 2021.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) found that girls’ attendance in secondary schools had decreased in all provinces, including Kabul, since August 2021. Additionally, boys’ attendance in secondary schools experienced a decline of over 10 percent in eight provinces. The higher education sector has also been severely affected, with a private university reporting a 50 percent reduction in enrolled students and the discontinuation of most women’s educational programs due to Taliban policies.

The decline in education access is mirrored by a drop in the overall quality of education in Afghanistan. Female teachers, now limited to gender-segregated classrooms, are facing staffing shortages. Economic difficulties in Afghanistan have forced households to withdraw children from school to work or arrange early marriages for their daughters to manage household expenses.

Furthermore, the report highlights the decreasing quality of teachers, with qualified educators being replaced by untrained community members or Taliban officials. The secular curriculum has been replaced by religious studies, significantly reducing the scope of education. Many teachers are resigning due to personal safety concerns, given the Taliban’s punitive measures and restrictions on female employment and travel.

In response to Taliban policies, international donors, including USAID, have redirected their funding towards private schools, such as community-based education schools (CBEs) and distance learning initiatives, aimed at improving primary-level education accessibility, especially in areas with limited public school facilities and marginalized populations.

The report also raises concerns about the increasing number of madrassas infiltrating the public school system, resulting in a lack of secular education, particularly in technology, science, mathematics, reading, and writing. The absence of these essential skills could hinder students from securing sustainable income and impede Afghanistan’s economic growth.

Despite the cessation of on-budget education assistance following the Taliban’s takeover, both the U.S. State Department and USAID continue to support the education sector. Currently, they oversee six programs with estimated costs of $1.9 million and $183.3 million, respectively.

These findings underscore the urgent need for ongoing efforts to address the educational crisis in Afghanistan, as the repercussions extend beyond the present to the nation’s future prospects. Top of Form

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