NANGARHAR -- Students at eight schools in Haska Mina District of Nangarhar Province are resuming their studies for the first time in four years after troops drove "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) militants from the region.
About 2,000 out of about 3,000 children originally enrolled in the eight schools have returned to studying in make-shift facilities in the province, said Abdul Haseeb Shinwari, director of education for Nangarhar Province.
"Three among the eight are religious schools," Shinwari told Salaam Times. "Some of the schools reopened in their original locations, but some moved elsewhere."
Students have been returning to schools since May 7, said Shinwari. Boys and girls studied together at these eight schools, he said, adding that four years ago, the total number of girls at these schools was about 1,000. Now, about 500 to 800 girls are enrolled so far, Shinwari said.
ISIS fighters chased out
"It is now safe there," he said. "Girls and boys are resuming their studies."
Local residents expressed gratitude that troops expelled militants from the area so that they could return to their homes and that their children could resume their studies.
"We are happy that life is back to normal here and that our kids are back in school," Muhammed Samim, 32, a resident of Haska Mina District, told Salaam Times. "Most of the [school] buildings were demolished in fighting between Daesh [ISIS] and the government. We want these buildings to be rehabilitated."
ISIS fighters used Papin Markazi High School as their military base, said local authorities, adding that combat flattened the school.
"Papin used to be the capital of Daesh's Khorasan [province]," Wasiullah Khaksar, a resident of Papin in Haska Mina District, told Salaam Times. "It martyred many ordinary people there, but we were able to escape. Now that this group has left, we came back.
"Our children used to live in very grave conditions," he said. "We had to stay in others' homes for a few years. Our children were deprived of education. We're happy they are back in school."
Abdul Wali, a student at Papin High School who returned to school after four years, is excited to be learning again.
"We lived in the town of Ghazi Amanullah Khan in someone else's home," he told Salaam Times. "UNICEF built a school there that taught until the sixth grade. In the first year, I was enrolled in sixth grade at that school, and when I was done with that grade ... I had to quit. Now, my teacher recommends that I repeat the sixth grade."
Constructing new buildings
The tent facilities serving as schools are only temporary and workers will rebuild permanent buildings, said Shinwari, the provincial education director.
"We have provided tents and other supplies to all eight schools, and we plan to reconstruct buildings for them as well," he said.
In addition to reviving educational opportunities in Haska Mina and other districts, the Nangarhar government plans to rebuild houses in those areas, said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor.
"Residents whose homes were destroyed will get assistance to rebuild their homes," he said. "Those affected by the war will receive support from the government and international relief agencies."