Students across Afghanistan are suffering in the standoff between Pakistan and the United States over the resumption of Nato supplies, as four million books in 77 Nato containers are stuck at the Karachi Port since November last year, claimed Afghan authorities.
The curriculum books for grade 10, 11 and 12 Afghan students were published in Dubai with Nato support for educational institutions in the eastern parts of the country, said the education ministry.
Afghan Minister of Education Farooq Wardak told media on Sunday that his government has already raised the issue with the Pakistani authorities at the highest level. “They assured us of quick resolution of the issue, but it is yet to happen,” said Wardak.
He said the Pakistani authorities were impressed upon that politics must not deprive children of their basic right to education.
“I do not know why Pakistan has stopped our books. We are facing a shortage of books here,” said Nangialy, a 12 grade student of Dari language and literature at Kabul University. Another student of Pashto language grade 11 Abida Nazish appealed to the Pakistani government to immediately release the books.
The students said they got to know from the local media that the books were stuck at the Karachi Port due to ban on Nato supplies through Pakistan.
A lecturer at the university Ajmal Shakalay told The Express Tribune that the delay in arrival of new books could cause a failure in replacing the old curriculum. He further claimed that certain schools were closed due to shortage of books.
Education Ministry spokesperson Amanullah Iman said that fresh term in majority of schools in the country already began in May. However, in 40% schools the new term starts in August, but the curriculum changes are made simultaneously across the country, which could now be delayed, he added.
“The delay in the release of books’ containers were perhaps due to misunderstanding as the Pakistani authorities thought there were Nato supplies in the containers,” said Iman.
A Pakistani government official, requesting anonymity, said that it was surprising that books were being transported in Nato containers. He said the authorities were not certain as Nato containers, as per contract, are not opened to check the supplies.
“Naturally, and commonly they (containers) carry weapons and supplies for troops and not books for Afghan schools,” said the official. However, he said he could not comment on how soon the containers could be released as they were addressed to Nato authorities and not the Afghan government.
“The parliament will decide on opening the Nato supply routes. Until then, nothing could be done,” the official added.
The Afghan education ministry said the books were published by Oriental Publishing Company in Dubai under the support of Nato command. Therefore, they were being transported in the Nato containers.
An official of education ministry denied that schools were closed due to shortage of books. Rather a security threat to certain schools was the reason for their closure but they will be opened soon, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2012.