Going to school every day without a fear of violence is something that every child should have access to: no matter where they’re growing up. Not enough countries boast that kind of safety- not even the US. Countries that we work closely with and have troops stationed in (think Afghanistan) are places that we should be encouraging positive changes. I’m not talking about brute US imperialism here, and I’m certainly not claiming that we’re perfect. We could stand to make big changes in the US as well to ensure the safety of kids doing nothing more than seeking a good education. We see school shootings, bullying, and rampant sexual violence far more often than we should. In countries like Afghanistan they have all of those problems- plus a host of others. More and more frequently, young girls are becoming poisoning victims at the hands of conservative adults who don’t want to see young women receive educations.
A week ago in northern Afghanistan, somewhere around 74 school aged girls fell sick and school officials suspect a poisoning attempt on the part of radically conservative groups in the area. Between May and June 2012 a girls' school in Takhar, Afghanistan faced four poisoning attacks. After each attempt, school officials had to search the school’s campus and test the water to make sure nothing was contaminated. Since the fall of the Taliban government, girls have been allowed to return to school in droves- about 40% of the students who have returned to their studies are female- but their safety is seriously in question, especially in more volatile areas of the country. With the upcoming withdrawal of US troops, Afghanistan will be on its own in terms of security and community safety. There will undoubtedly be advantages and disadvantages to leaving the country- but there is a legitimate concern that poisoning attacks on girls’ schools will only pick up once US troops are no longer stationed in the area. Ensuring that girls can receive a safe education is absolutely crucial.
Another problem is that many of the Afghani schools are actually tents or open areas; environments that make it difficult for students to put their best efforts into their studies. Significant improvements need to be made to the quality of schools and the safety protocol that are designed to keep students safe from shootings or poisonous attacks. One way to accomplish this would be to allocate more of the country’s funds towards education efforts- or to increase US spending on international education. It would be a much better investment of US dollars to spend money on the education of global citizens. Currently schools in Afghanistan are most commonly built by international aid organizations or wealthy individuals who are particularly passionate about education. Angelina Jolie, for example, has sponsored at least one school in Qala-i-Guda. Instead of a school here and there when a wealthy celebrity has the ability to sponsor a community, we should be making a concerted effort to provide a safe education for as many kids as possible.