Thousands of students in eastern Afghanistan are unable to attend school because the Islamic State (IS) is keeping classrooms shuttered.
According to Afghan Ministry of Education estimates, around 33,000 students have been deprived of education in 58 schools in the Achin, Haskamena, and Kot districts of Nangarhar province.
Over half of the 46 schools in the Achin district remain closed, and many students have left with their families to neighboring areas where schools are open.
“We have received a total of 450 new students including 200 of our own students who had been displaced and 250 students from other school [districts],” Sibghatullah, an administrator at Kahi High School in Achin, told VOA.
Increase in IS violence
In recent months, there has been an increase in IS violence in Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar province, where fighters have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security checkpoints.
In Afghanistan, IS runs cross-border smuggling operations of people, money and even timber, according to reports. IS has also advertised on its media sites how it trains foreign recruits in Afghanistan.
The government said it is making gains against IS in Nangarhar. Afghan government and NATO forces recently launched offensives against IS, and some areas have been cleared of the militants.
IS fighters are trying to make a footprint in neighboring Kunar province and turn it into its operation base, Afghan officials said last week.
The fear of IS remains in Nangarhar schools.
Deh Sarak High School recently reopened after being occupied by IS for more than nine months.
“They asked us not to come to school,” Amanullah Khadim, the school headmaster, told VOA. “ They closed the school because [according to IS], it belonged to the [Afghan] government which was an illegal regime.”
IS used the school as a military compound where leaders made decisions about strategy and executing prisoners.
Deh Sarak High School housed around 3,000 students before it was closed by IS militants. Administrators hope most of the students will soon return.
But many are haunted by the memory of IS occupying their school
“We saw Daesh,” one student told VOA, using an Arab acronym for the militant group. “They would kill people.”
VOA’s Noor Zahid contributed to this report from Washington