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Danish aid helps re-open Afghan schools

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The Copenhagen Post
06.03.2008

Danish aid is helping schools to re-open in Afghanistan, but critics say the curriculum is based on fundamental Islam

An ordinary school day will soon become a reality for some of Musa Qala’s school children, reports Politiken newspaper.

Three months ago, the dusty district town of 35,000 inhabitants in the Helmand province of Afghanistan was devoid of schools after it had been taken over by the Taleban. The insurgents obliterated many learning centres and murdered teachers and students.

However, in December, the Afghan government troops claimed the town back with the help of British and American forces.

Denmark is now in charge of re-establishing schools in the Helmand province. And with a pledge of DKK 3.4 million, two primary schools are being built in Musa Qala and the town’s secondary school is once again buzzing with students.

According to the Danish development plan for Helmand, Denmark will be responsible for the building or re-building of ten new schools over the next ten years. One of the long-term goals of the Helmand plan is to have 105,000 boys and girls in school by 2011.

But while getting the children back in school is important, the schools are considered ‘religious’ centres, and many critics are worried that the children are being educated according to strict interpretations of Islam.

‘We are uneasy about supporting groups that are on the religious fringes,’ said Peter Skaarup, The Danish People’s Party’s second-in-command. ‘We have to be careful about giving aid to fundamentalist groups.’

But Franz-Michael Mellbin, the Danish ambassador to Afghanistan, said in an area where Islam is very strong and 90 percent of the population is illiterate, building only public schools will force the local priests to discourage parents from sending their children to school at all – or force them to cross the border into Pakistan, where there is little or no control over school curricula.

But Mellbin is still optimistic about Danish efforts. He said the priority was to establish a system that would enable as much access to schools as possible for the province’s children.

‘The first plan was not ambitious enough. So we’ve now enlisted the help of people from the education ministry in Kabul and we’re drawing up new plans,’ he said.

Mellbin added that support from local residents was crucial for success, particularly in getting girls into the schools.

‘People are not comfortable sending girls to schools far away, whereas there is no problem for boys to walk up to ten km,’ he said. (LYT)
All rights reserved CPHPOST.DK

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Written by afghandevnews

March 8, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Education

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