Peace education and peacebuilding in Afghanistan - part 2

Peace education and peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan – part 2

TransConflict is pleased to present the second part of research into peace education and peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, undertaken by the Peace and Human Rights Organization (PHRO) from Afghanistan, a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.

 Suggested Reading Conflict Background GCCT

Please click here to read the first part of this research. 

By Dr. Nezamuddin Katawazi

Political factors

Key issues during focus group discussions and consultations were governance, corruption and legitimacy/capacity of state institutions that have a direct relation with the escalation/mitigation of conflict in these provinces. The survey showed that weak governance in many areas, including education, has been a severe obstacle for peacebuilding, including for designing and implementing peace education strategies. Weak governance has its roots in the lack of rule of law, which requires equal application of the law and a public knowledge of law by every citizen, in particular in countries after conflict. [1] Afghanistan has passed the initial phase of reform, rewriting its constitution and legislation in the past 14 years, but has not been able to enter the deeper phase of institutional reform to respect and apply these laws across the country.

During the consultation process, people viewed corruption as the main barrier to security, development and stability in these provinces. Authorities, in particular law enforcement officials, are widely involved in corruption that leads to other forms of crime and to the erosion of confidence of people in the government. Many disputes among people, both of a civil and criminal nature, are brought to the Taliban for a solution, thereby further weakening the state’s legitimacy. The inability of the formal justice system to resolve cases of a civil and criminal nature produces impunity and other problems among society like individual/tribal hostilities, nepotism and others.

In addition, impunity for crimes – including human rights violations committed at present or in the past – was one of the main demands of many participants. They stated that individuals accused of serious human rights abuses should be removed from key governmental positions and brought to justice. The rationale for this demand rests upon the notion that reconciliation occurs only when a genuine investigation process into war crimes and crimes against humanity has been undertaken in which perpetrators are identified and punished. Some of the participants have albeit favored transitional justice process which does not necessarily include formal justice procedures.

During the group discussions and individual interviews, participants pointed to the current peace process and perceived it as ineffective for conflict resolution and maintaining peace. Critical views referred mainly to the structure of the High Peace Council (HPC) and its provincial branches, the Provincial Peace Council (PPC) and its manner of handling the armed opposition. Some members of the PPC are, according to them, not loyal to the genuine peace process, as most were involved in former hostilities upon whom the armed opposition can hardly trust. On the other hand, they believed that local powerbrokers play a negative role in the peace process, as they also have relations with the opposition and cannot act independently. They think these powerbrokers seek their own interests in the continuation of conflict.

The presence of armed opposition in the area and their control over areas in terms of establishing parallel judicial structures to address disputes of criminal and civil nature, collecting illegal taxes from the population, and recruiting new members in remote areas are evidence of the weakness of the state’s legitimacy and presence. This situation implies that the state is not able to exercise the legitimate use of the means of violence within the territory under its jurisdiction.

Good governance of education systems is one of the other most important ways of contributing to equality, inclusion and social cohesion. The lack of a good governance strategy for the education sector was from the very beginning perhaps the biggest challenge for improving the education system. Good governance protects against grievances about access to and quality of education becoming sources of conflict. Governance features assessed in the education system are related to identifying the stakeholders that have influence on the control of education and those who are responsible for implementing the rules set forth by the central control system of education and their technical capacity to perform these responsibilities. The survey examined governance challenges related to processes and procedures of policy/strategy implementation, and the influence of powerful figures/elements on policy determination for educational sector and budget issues. Coordination between the central and provincial administration of education, as well as the monitoring system of performance within the educational sector, is further criteria that have been examined. Failure in this area affected several aspects of the education administration in the case study provinces, including failure to adopt transparent practices for funding, procurement and staff employment, teachers training programs and textbooks availability/access to it for all students across the regions.

Social and economic factors

The Southeastern and Eastern provinces of Afghanistan have a direct border with Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. This area has been separated from Afghanistan by the demarcation of the Durand Line in 1893, which divided people of the same ethnic group, Pashtuns. This line was established by agreement between Sir Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat and civil servant of British India, and Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901), the Afghan Amir, to identify their respective spheres of influence in the area. Given the politically strategic status of the area, it was considered a buffer state between the two dominant powers, British India and Russia during the nineteenth century. FATA is still largely governed through Frontier the Crimes Regulation (FCR) introduced in 1901 by British India and denies the fundamental human rights and freedoms of individuals. For example, under this regulation, the political agent can impose collective responsibility on a tribe for a crime committed by a single member of the tribe. (Amnesty International, 2010) [2].

However, no Afghan government has accepted the Durand Line and it remained a constant issue of dispute. The main sources of livelihood remains subsistence agriculture and minor trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the first Soviet invasion of 1979 into Afghanistan, the border area became a global conflict region. This situation has increasingly impacted education on both sides of the line. The subsequent wars forced many individuals to resort to illegal economic activities, which significantly affected the local economy and was described by a large number of participants as a main cause of conflict. Although local differences in economic development exist – with Nangrahanr as relatively affluent compared to the rest of the Southeastern provinces of Khost and Paktika, the recent economic development in Nangrahar has come to stagnation, including the loss of a large number of jobs in this province. Most of the interviewees believed that poverty and a lack of jobs drive conflict. Geographical and political conditions have led to the emergence of other structural barriers such as a lack of access to education. Many young illiterate members of these communities are easily recruited by insurgents. The report examines issues of access to and equity in basic education within the context of this broader socio-political situation.

A further factor that caused geographical and social inequalities derived from the approaches of the past regimes and governments over the last century. These inequalities were reflected in a clear urban/rural imbalance in the provision of education. The center of the country, Kabul, received more attention in terms of resources, development and innovation, leading to a dominance of the center over the peripheries, leading to massive social inequalities and a lack of social mobility, plus a system of patronage rooted in local networks. Rural areas and remote areas were historically not the center of attention. In particular, the Southern and Southeastern parts were not only driven to the margins, but also social, political and economic conditions, plus prevailing cultural attitudes, played a role in the failure of educational interventions. During the time of King Mohammed Zaher Shah (1933-1973), for example, although education was given more importance, the geographical balance was not fully-respected. In 1314 (1935) 43 new schools were established in the whole country; 19 of these schools were only initiated in Kabul. In 1315 (1936), 1317 (1938) and 1321 (1942) 60, 78 and 54 new schools were built respectively.[3]

Education development

We see education not only as service delivery, but as a means to socialization through the transmission of knowledge, skills and values that enable young members of society to adapt to and change the prevailing circumstances. Fortunately, despite the education sector being marginal to the overall international community post-conflict thinking in Afghanistan, this sector has received huge funding through the UN family and via bilateral donors. These contributions have had important effects. Unicef, USAID, JIKA, GIZ, and others have worked hard to reconstruct the educational infrastructures with the Ministry of Education, with some notable success. However, the sector has not received the attention it merits.

In the initial phase of post-conflict period (2002-2005) there was a great surge of interest and appreciation of the importance of education. The government and international donors and organizations tried to response to needs on the ground. Many children found access to education. The focus in this period was on the reconstruction of the country’s education infrastructure – both schools and teachers; the reintegration into society of both ex-combatant youth and returnees, through educational access either via formal schooling or informal educational arrangements and Technical and Vocational Education and Training provided by the Ministry of Education; and accelerated learning programs to assist in allowing students to catch-up on lost education. The school construction through the program “Back to School” was significant in getting the education system functioning again in post-conflict Afghanistan. The reconstruction meant for the population a state presence in many areas. The educational sector has made progress since the fall of the Taliban regime, however these achievements are more concerned with quantity than quality. For example, the comparison of the pupil enrollment rate from 2002 to 2014; the physical reconstruction and the development of the National Strategic Plans (2006- 2014 ) of the sector provide sources to document the quantitative achievements made in the field. The number of students in 1381 (2002) was, according to the Ministry of Education, 2.3 million. This number reached a height of 10 million in 2014 of which 60% were females.

During the next phase of reconstruction (2006-2013) – after contributing to the basic education and educational infrastructure, and the expansion of the education system – attention was devoted to providing quality education and addressing the capacity of the Ministry of Education to cope with educational requirements and issues technically and more professionally. In this phase the impression is that there has been a shift towards general relationships between education and international development. The Ministry of Education has developed new programs to integrate the education sector into the broader national development agenda through coordinating educational intervention with line ministries and international agencies, in line with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS, 2008) which prioritized national development needs. However, challenges regarding the educations system – such as difficulties in geographical coverage, equity, quality and corruption, which had negative implications for peacebuilding –  remain intact. The shortage of resources and inefficiencies within the Ministry to tackle the funds received properly, lead to corruption and poor management and a failure to optimize its resources.

Who are the stakeholders of peace education in Afghanistan?

The Ministry of Education, Department of Education, teachers, students, Mullahs, community elders, national and international NGOs are considered the main stakeholders in peace education in Afghanistan. The latter implement programs in a non-formal environment. The Ministry of Education develops and implements – through teachers and staff – educational policy and peace education concepts. It is important to see what are the views, experiences, motivation, skills and capacity of these stakeholders in order to evaluate the success of peace education programs in Afghan schools. Peace education as a subject has not been introduced in the curriculum for Afghan schools. It is taught implicitly through other textbooks.

Teachers training program

From peacebuilding perspectives, teachers have a significant role in shaping the mind and behavior of the younger generation. Teacher training programs must be a central component of the education strategy for post-conflict countries, and it must be better integrated into the overall framework of educational development. The Ministry of Education has developed the teacher training program for both in-service and out-service teachers, with the aim of enhancing their capacity. On the policy level, the Ministry of Education has undertaken serious attempts to provide training for teachers at different levels throughout the country. According to the Ministry of Education, “44 Teachers Training Colleges (TTCs), 187 Teachers Assistance Centers (TACs) in districts and 57 buildings have been established. 15,035 teachers (34% female) have completed the in-service Teachers Training two years program in 2014 and 15,378 students (71% female) have completed the pre-service Training program in 2014. “[4]


The lack of security in the case study provinces is the main barrier for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the right to universal primary education for all. The complexity and changing nature of the armed conflict have complicated the challenges further. The institutional response and capacity to deal with these changing patterns of violent conflict have failed to ensure durable peace. The formal institutions are often unable or unwilling to take responsibility for security, protecting basic human rights, including the right to quality education.

Many participants in interviews pointed to poverty and poor education along with corruption and nepotism as the main drivers of conflict. These factors have increased the risk of conflict through creating the possibility for younger generation to be recruited by the insurgency as the only source of employment.

The lack of professional teachers to teach the new curriculum was one of the complaints made by many stakeholders in Khost and Paktika. The survey found that the teacher training program in Khost and Paktika has not been fully introduced. In an interview with Alfatha High school’s teachers in Khost, for example, it was evident that outside the provincial capital, no other TTC was active. The reason given was the deterioration of security in rural areas. Moreover, it is also not clear how many teachers received up-to-date in-service training, either from the NIE or the Ministry of Education. The research found that a large number of teachers and principals (especially in remote areas of Khost and Paktika) have not yet received any training or guidance on implementing peace education or related issues, such as human rights principles. Our research found further that not all TTCs seem to incorporate ‘peace education issues’ into their regular pre-service program.

Unequal distribution of educational materials create segregation and division between provinces and regions. In Khost, for example pupils said in interviews that they very often receive the textbooks at the end of the academic year, which limits how they can advance their knowledge and necessary skills.

In interviews and consultations with various teachers in the case study provinces, many pointed to the issue of low salaries for teachers (5000-7000afs equal to $100-140per month) that impact heavily educational process. The present salary range for teachers are not sufficient for the daily basic needs of an average family. Teachers are forced/motivated to find other engagements beside their daily duty of teaching in schools to support their families.

Policies on peace education are not effectively implemented in practice by NGOs in the case study provinces. Peace education is usually absent from teacher training programs, and in-service teachers are not sufficiently supported to use new initiatives in these provinces. In an interview with teachers and other staff in Khost for example, it was evident that peace education program carried out by non-formal stakeholders did not exist and they had heard nothing of such a program.

The survey found further that the educational infrastructure is not capable of dealing with the growing number of students in the provinces surveyed. The research paper argues for an intermediary approach to education planning in the medium term in Afghanistan, which continues to address the educational manifestations of the drivers of conflict such as ethnic, class and geographical inequalities: a peacebuilding development strategy for education.

Dr. Nezamuddin Katawazi is managing director of the Peace and Human Rights Organization (PHRO) from Afghanistan, a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.


  1. Thomas Carothers, the Rule of Law Revival, in: ForeignAffairs, March/April 1998, p. 95 ff.)
  2. ‘As if hell fell on me’ The human rights crisis in Northwest Pakistan, Amnesty International,2010 in :
  3. The history of education in Afghanistan, Kabul, 1325, p. 34-40.
  4., p.8

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