Mixed report on Kuchi education

Only a tiny proportion of children of the Kuchi community in southern and eastern Afghanistan get a formal schooling, and community leaders say government education efforts are not enough.

A social rather than ethnic grouping, the traditionally nomadic but increasingly settled Kuchi face mutiple humanitarian issues compounded by the fact that the majority are illiterate, according to government officials and community leaders.

The government agrees that Kuchi children’s access to education has been limited by their nomadic lifestyle, and is trying to do something about it: It has built over 10 schools for Kuchis in the south and east, and established 26 learning centres for Kuchi children who settle temporarily in a given area, according to Education Ministry officials.

“In the summer when Kuchis arrive in Sorobi District [east of Kabul] we organize classes for their children while they are there,” said Asif Nang, an Education Ministry spokesman.

Nang implied some Kuchi parents appear to have little interest in educating their children: “We have a brand new school with all facilities for Kuchis in Paktia Province but it lies empty,” Nang told IRIN.

Kuchis counter that the government is not doing enough. “The government claims it has built schools for Kuchis in some provinces but those are empty buildings with no teachers, no books and no other facilities,” Mahmood Khan Silaimankhil, head of the Independent Directorate of Kuchi Affairs (IDKA), told IRIN.

School attendance among Kuchi children has been lower even than for other minority groups - 6.6 percent for boys and 1.8 percent for girls, according to a National Multi-sectoral Assessment on Kuchis in 2005. IDKA says over 90 percent of Kuchi children still do not go to school.

According to the National Education Strategic Plan 2006-2011, the Education Ministry should ensure at least 35 percent of Kuchi children have access to formal education by 2010.

Kuchi children take part in animal husbandry work, and their parents can ill-afford to be without their help, aid workers say.

“Like their right to health, Kuchis’ right to education is enjoyed considerably less than other segments of Afghanistan’s population,” said a December 2009 report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.