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Schools Closed Under Taliban In Restive Afghan Province

FILE: Students take an exam in Kunduz.

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan -- Lawmakers in a restive northeastern province in Afghanistan say Taliban control has deprived hundreds of thousands of students from going to schools.

Members of the provincial council in Kunduz, a rural province bordering Tajikistan, say insecurity and Taliban control have forced nearly half of some 550 schools in the region to close.

Safiullah Amiri, deputy head of the Kunduz provincial council, says the insurgents control half of Kunduz schools because they now control or contest most of its seven districts.

“We are worried and want the government to reclaim all our schools,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “In the territories controlled by the insurgents, schools are either closed or only offer a curriculum approved by the insurgents.”

Amruddin Wali, a member of the Kunduz provincial council, says growing the insurgeny in Kunduz has rapidly translated into depriving the region’s students of education.

“The Taliban are ruling most of the villages and towns in this region, which means that education is under assault,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan in the provincial capital, also called Kunduz. “They are inventing different excuses to close schools or are forcing their worldview and curriculum on students.”

But a purported Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, rejects these accusations. He says they have not forced schools to close but some are being closed because teachers have fled or stopped working.

Mujahid says that after the government decided to deposit teacher salaries into their bank accounts most have stopped working because they cannot travel to the cities and towns controlled by government forces.

He says most teachers will return to work once the government arranges to pay their salaries in cash by sending emissaries to the Taliban-controlled territories.

Despite repeated attempts, Radio Free Afghanistan was unable to reach the director of the government’s education department in Kunduz for comment.

Abdul Hamid Hamidi, Kunduz police chief, says government forces are planning to reclaim schools from the insurgents.

“We will launch operations soon,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “[This is necessary] because I don’t think they have people who can distinguish right from wrong.”

Afghan forces, however, are under tremendous pressure in Kunduz. Amid frequent battles, rural districts frequently change hands. The Taliban briefly overran the provincial capital in the fall of 2015.

An estimated 1 million Kunduz residents have been killed or endured destruction, intimidation, and displacement because of the fighting.

The education department in Kunduz estimates a sizable number of more than 330,000 students, inducing nearly 125,000 girls, are deprived of education in Kunduz.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ajmal Aryan’s reporting from Kunduz Afghanistan.