The man was looking through books for sale on a cart in Ghazni city the center of the province. His son, Karim, a boy of about nine years, stood nearby. I asked which class he was in, and Karim smiled but did not reply. Instead, he looked at his father.
“We live in Nawa district, where the schools have been closed for years,” replied the man. “Now I want to buy Panj Separa (the first five sections of the Quran) for him to study with the village mullah in the mosque.”
Nawa is located in the south of Ghazni province, and shares a border with Paktika, and Zabul. The majority of people who live there are Pashtun. It is now the 9th year that the district is under Taliban control. Reports from ministry of Education show that there is no school active in this district.
The government has made many attempts to regain Nawa, which is often used by the Taliban to gain access to Ghazni, Wardak, Uruzgan, and Daikundi.
There are no government employees in Nawa district; schools and health centers are closed. People from other provinces cannot go there because of the threats and risks they are facing.
“Nawa district is now under the control of Taliban, people are facing many problems there”, said Zainuddin, a resident of Nawa, speaking in Ghazni city. “There are no schools or hospitals. Sick people are usually taken to Ghazni city, but they often die before getting to the hospital due to the bad roads.”
According to Zainuddin, high school graduates from other provinces have opened private drugstores in Nawa district, which lack the necessary equipment. Sometimes they sell expired medicines that can cause serious problems.
Parents worry about their children’s education.
“The Taliban are teaching our children their own system,” said Juma Gul, another Nawa resident.”Our children are growing up illiterate, we do not even have a school building. They are taught by Taliban teachers in a house. It is better to send them there rather than keeping them at home, wasting time.”
According to Juma Gul, it has been years since the government has conducted any development projects in this district. The people now think of the Taliban as the government.
Residents complain that the Taliban are forcing people to feed them, and show up at their homes with foreigners to spend days and nights with them.
The residents are upset, and ask that the government take some action. But so far, the government has been slow to respond.
“Nawa district has been under the control of Taliban for years”, said Fahim Amiri, media liaison for the Ghazni police. “We are ready to fight the Taliban, but we do not have the capability to operate in that district unless the central government helps us.”
According to Amiri, reclaiming Nawa is necessary for the security of neighboring provinces.
The Taliban are equipping their groups in other provinces through this district,” he said. “On the other hand, Nawa is connected through Waza Khwa district of Paktika province to Pakistan, from which Taliban and insurgents can easily enter this district.”