The Forgotten Ones: The Education of Afghan Refugees

Today, Syrian refugees are being discussed across the globe- the acceptance of Syrians was a major issue in the recent presidential election here in the United States, and their struggle for education in Lebanon and in Europe have been previous blog topics. But within this discourse, Afghan refugees are in danger of being forgotten. Around one million Afghan refugees live in Iran. 1.6 million live in Pakistan. These refugees have differing story-lines; these refugees fled during the war with the United States, and some date back to the Soviet era. Afghans who have lived their entire lives in their host country, are still treated like unwanted, exploited outsiders. Education and integration seem impossible, until the government needs something.

In Iran, these Afghan refugees are suddenly being recruited into the Iranian army, in a revered division called the Fatemiyon. The government needs soldiers to fight in the Syrian civil war, and the Afghans need money and work permits, and access to education for their families. All these are promised to them. In the event of their death for Iran, their families are placed under care of the Martyr Foundation. The surviving family members are granted citizenship. Basic schooling, or access to a university education, become possible.

In Pakistan, the story is similar. In The Pakistan Observer, an opinion piece by an Islamabad lawyer that comes across more as propaganda for Pakistan, brings up an important concept. The Afghans getting scholarships are studying for engineering and medical degrees, and the Afghans who complete their education in Pakistan, go to work for companies in Pakistan or the government. The government of Pakistan has an incentive to treat these particular Afghan refugees well- it invests in their educational capital, and then reaps the rewards. With one and a half million Afghan refugees, the government is only educating refugees by the thousands, refugees that have the skills that Pakistan wants.

The Business Recorder gives an account of a statement by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak where he says that unregistered refugees are a security risk, and that no country should ever want unregistered refugees. But it’s not a discussion based on ethnic conflict. When talking about education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he lauds the provincial government for teaching its (Pakistani) students English, for teaching girls to where they are now doing better than boys, for training teachers. The article states that the Chief Minister said he wanted the UN to educate the Afghan refugees because “we want to make them useful citizens to serve their country in a proper manner.”

That is the crux of the matter. The Pakistani government, or the Iranian, want these refugees to be useful citizens who produce for the ruling government and play by its rules. They see education as highly important in this goal, but they are wary of simply giving it out to any refugees who might not want to become a part of the system that educated them.

For more information, look here.

Watch here to view the lives of Refugees in Iran.



Challenging the Conflict Discourse: Horrors of hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew has caused widespread destruction in Haiti, specifically affecting rural areas to the south and isolated areas within the country. The infrastructure in Haiti has been battered by Hurricane Matthew. Haitian hospitals are poorly equipped to deal with the devastation, lacking critical medical supplies. The heavy winds, rain, and flooding destroyed many homes, bridges, and schools. Crop fields have been destroyed and strewn with garbage. Power lines are down, and residents can’t communicate with each other or get the news.

The immediate danger has passed, but there are still lingering questions about the availability of drinking water, medical supplies, and food. International aid is coming, but the aid is looked upon with suspicion. Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports that cholera is a bi07haiti-web2-master675g fear, but many of the town residents report concern over their crops. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, aid programs were heavily criticized for not helping build localized infrastructure. They came in, set up a system that they benefited from, and only temporarily solved the problems, without giving Haitians the necessary resources to fix any problems themselves. The UN peacekeepers, in Haiti after the earthquake, were the ones who brought cholera to Haiti.

Unfortunately, these international aid groups are needed to help the government at this time. Haiti’s current government is an interim government and elections were scheduled for the weekend after the hurricane hit, and have since been postponed. The unavoidable damage of a natural disaster has set back Haiti’s political process again. The government of Haiti wants to effectively govern, and be the relief for its own country. Yet when bridges and roads have been wiped out, as well as hundreds of schools, this is no small task. The New York Times, reporting on many of the same problems as Al Jazeera, contains a very telling perspective: Jean Senozier Despreux claims people died because they didn’t believe the authorities who told them to evacuate. They distrusted the government, and weren’t prepared for the hurricane.

Reuters reports that over 300 schools have been destroyed, and many more have been converted into shelters for those who have lost their homes. Schooling was already a hot-button issue in the upcoming presidential election, which will no longer be held. Expanded access to education has been seen as a way for Haiti to develop itself. Better schooling, from primary education on up, should lead to less dependence on foreign aid through improving the skills of Haiti’s own workforce. Haiti is looking to take the steps it needs to be economically and developmentally independent. When Hurricane Matthew intervened, the discourse surrounding Haiti instead becomes one of self-control vs. foreign control. In the face of a natural disaster, conflict presents itself with many faces. A place that was rebuilding education, politics, and health systems, all gets destroyed in a matter of hours when a hurricane hits. Not only are the people of Haiti struggling for food and their health, but the entire school system that has taken over a decade to build up has been completely wiped out. The primary concern is the health of the people of Haiti, but with over 300 schools wiped out, the education system becomes set back two decades.

For more information on the school crisis in Haiti, look here.

For an overlook on the damage in Haiti, watch this video.

Al Jazeera, “Horrors left by Hurricane Matthew become clear in Haiti”

Reuters, “Hurricane Matthew closes schools for thousands of Haiti’s children”

NY Times, “Hurricane Matthew makes old problems worse for Haitians”

The Violent Cost of Education

On October 10th, one of South Africa’s major universities broke out into violent protests over the rising cost of higher education. Students are demanding a free education for institutions across the country; however, with a police response, the protests took a violent turn. Police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas in response to the students throwing rocks and lighting things on fire. The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is the center of the student movement, but the student protests are spreading and affecting other institutions within the country.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration is trying to negotiate and respond to the student protests, but the students are not cooperating. The Minister of Education, Blade Nzimande, denounces the violence happening throughout the country and states that the academic programs are not able to run due to being “held ransom by irresponsible and disrespectful striking students.” Without the funding from student tuition, the administration states that programs will have to be cut and there would not be any funding for research programs.

Money is not everything, in terms of higher education, financial support needs to come from somewhere in order to effectively run an institution. Higher education and the human capital theory are almost synonymous. If a student invests in themselves, their knowledge cannot be separated from their body, making them more marketable for future job prospects. However, if there is no funding for institutional programs to run, the purpose of higher education diminishes, meaning less human capital. As long as there is access to higher education, the economy will benefit. In the case of South Africa’s institutions, this is not the case.

The administrative perspective is not what the students are focusing on with this protest. As stated in Al Jazeera article, university fees are not the center of this protest. The cost of education and the inequalities within the nation are prohibiting black students from attending higher education institutions. These protests were triggered by the government recommendation to increase tuition fees by eight percent; however, the frustration surround the inequalities have been going on for more than two decades after the end of white minority rule in South Africa.

In Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand has reopened; however, the student protests are still currently taking place. Whether or not the protest is fully about the rise of tuition or a way to finally fight for equality within the higher education system of South Africa, the protests have turned violent and students are being injured. Disruption and chaos will continue to spread among institutions within the country, and either way, academic programs will be damaged.

For a student perspective, watch this video.

To read more, follow up here.


South African university engulfed in violence in protests over education costs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from

South Africa: University fee protests turn violent. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from


Education Isolation: The Closure of Bookstores in Peshawar

After 55 years of being a cultural hub for the locals and foreign workers of Peshawar, Pakistan, the Maktaba-e Sarhad bookstore is being closed. Owner Haji Rasheed collected and maintained over 30,000 books to encompass a whole world of ideas into his shop in the heart of Peshawar. Over the last month, everything was discounted down to fifty percent off and Haji is left with around 3,000 books. He is switching over to selling computers and televisions. In an interview with Radio Mashaal, Marvais Khan, Haji stated that those that enjoy reading books have no money to actually buy the books, and those with money, especially in Peshawar, are not buying books. However, general business failure is not the reason behind the closure.

Peshawar’s bookstores are being pushed out of the city due to both Talibanization and the economics of bookstores. Over the last sixteen years, bombings have been more routine in Peshawar and militant groups have been attacking institutions viewed as “Western—influenced” and going against Islamic values; bookstores have been an effective target. While these bookstores have been targeted, free alternatives have been put in place by the militant groups in the city as well; however, the choice is not as worldly. Jihadist literature has been handed outside mosques once a week. The education of the people of Peshawar is dwindling because of the limited options that are being presented, especially with the push of bookstores out of the city. These bookstores are either shutting down, or moving to the major cities within Pakistan, stripping the rural areas of literature. Students are losing access to literature, other than the free Jihadist readings; in turn, losing the ability to expand their educational background. The Radio Free Europe article makes the connection and focuses on the issue of deprivation of literature and education could lead to an increase in the inability to resist extremist.

Samar Minallah, a women’s right activist living in Islamabad commented on the education for the youth now living in Peshawar:

“When I was studying in Peshawar, Saeed Book Bank was full of youngsters. Even those who were not buying books, they would also know about the new books by visiting the shop. Adjacent to Saeed Book Bank there was a shop for the repair of musical instruments [now closed]. The old Book Shop was not merely a book shop; it was a symbol of our culture. Our younger generations are being deprived of these cultural roots.”

The Washington Post sheds a different light on the reasoning, with the focus on the lack of modernization in Peshawar and a push for technology and development. While technological and cultural changes might be present in current day Peshawar, this is not the struggle story of a small bookstore in the United States. The lack of access to literature is pushing the youth away from reading, especially in rural areas. Modernization does not necessarily allude to books becoming unpopular. The shutting down of bookstores leads to under-educated youth who do not have access to ideas other than what is being handed to them. The militant groups, almost with a post-Marxist view in mind, are focusing on stripping the powers of the bookstores because of the western ideals promoted within them; the content of the bookstores is stripping the country of a local education.

Read More on Current News in Peshawar:


Radio Free Europe:

The Washington Post:

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Out of School: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

After fleeing from the war in Syria, refugee children are not having access to schooling in the country of Lebanon. To what extent does safety trump the sacrifice of education for children? According to the Human Rights Watch, more than 250,000 Syrian school-aged children are not actually enrolled in the education system in Lebanon; that is more than half of the children that have fled to Lebanon to escape the war. While Lebanon has opened up free enrollment for Syrian children in public schools, the location of the refugee camps, the local policies on residency and work for Syrians, and the lack of resources available are keeping the children out school and pushing them to help their families.

The article in Al Jazeera focused on the outside influence of the education system for refugee children in places like Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Where does the blame get placed? Is it the donors, the failure of the education system, or the policies of the host country that affect the refugee children education? Bassam Khawaja states that refugee education really depends on foreign aid because of the fact that refugees are fleeing to developing countries. One issue brought about was the lack of commitment to the funding that the donors were offering.  What was being pledged and reported was almost always greater than what has actually been materializing in the host countries for the refugees.

The topic of Syrian refugee education in Lebanon was reported by both Al Jazeera and The Human Rights Watch, one written by Bassam Khawaja, and the other heavily citing Bassam Khawaja. However, two different perspectives were presented: the economics of outside funding for education and the local circumstances of why the children were not pursuing an education. The promise of money for school funding only goes so far in crisis education. The day to day experience of living through a war and fleeing from violence, present issues in education that outside policies and money might not fix. Both articles share the same opinion though: children are not getting primary schooling, and this is an issue.

Click here for a closer look into the life of a Syrian Refugee in Lebanon.


The Human Rights Watch:

Al Jazeera:

A World at School: