High school students hoping for a place at university face a host of obstacles, but romance is not usually one of them. In Ghor province, in central Afghanistan, however, an ill-starred love affair contributed to a record low number of participants sitting for this year’s Konkur, the exam that dictates which institutions and which faculties a high-school graduate can choose from.
Sebghatullah Akbari, head of Ghor’s Department of Eductation, confirmed the disappointing turnout: 2,160 students, 450 of whom were female.
“The number was 200 less than last year,” he said. “The lack of security and the increase in unemployment, along with the generally bad economic situation of many families, has led to the decrease in the number of participants in Ghor this year.”
Konkur 1395 (the year according to the official calendar used in Afghanistan) was held on November 20, 2015, in Sultanuddin Ghori High School, which is located in Ghor’s capital, Firoz Koh.
The weather was cold and wet, and the condition of the roads is not good. Some students could not get to Firoz Koh, while others were unable to afford accommodation in the capital. Security prevented many from venturing out, and Taliban interference in education meant that students from some districts were ill-prepared.
But residents of La’l-o Sar-Jangal district had no such worries. It is one of the safest districts in Ghor, with little or no Taliban presence. Both girls and boys attend school without interference.
Authorities from La’l-o Sar-jangal district point with pride to the fact that almost half of the participants in the Konkur were from their district.
Still, it was not easy.
The students wishing to take the Konkur had to be taken to Firoz Koh in a convoy of 75 vans, escorted by security forces from Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), Dolat-Yar district police, and La’l-o Sar-jangal district police.
The reason for the strong security presence was a tribal and personal conflict between the residents of La’l-o Sar-Jangal and Dolat-Yar districts.
The road had been blocked after a local Romeo and Juliet had set their families, tribes, and communities to warring by falling love.
The boy was from La’l-o Sar-Jangal, and from the Hazara ethnic group. His Juliet was from Dolat-Yar, right next door, but she was from the Aimaq ethnic group. When their and tribal elders families could not come to an agreement about their marriage, the pair ran away.
The girl’s relatives became angry and blocked the road between La’l-o Sar-Jangal and the central area of the province.
It took intervention from high-level Parliamentarians and government officials to reopen the road, and even so the participants from La’l-o Sar-Jangal had to have protection in order to get to the exam site.
Some of the participants of Kankor 1395 were impressed with the organization, while others had a few complaints regarding the lack of facilities on exam day.
“This year, participants were divided among 25 different places and the questions were all different,” said Shukria, a young test-taker.“This made it impossible for students to cheat.”
Another participant remarked on the condition of the testing site.
“There were more participants than chairs,” he said. “We had to sit from morning until the end of the exam on the cold, wet floor to take our exam.”
As for the pair that caused all of the trouble with their romance, they are reportedly together, but in hiding. This Romeo and Juliet story may be a lot more difficult to solve than the problems with the Konkur.”