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Kharoti School project unexpectedly creates space for rapprochement in long lasting conflict - ORD

 

Kharoti School classroomOne unintended effect of this project has been to trigger a potentially game-changing rapprochement between two tribes in the Paktya region of Afghanistan that had been in conflict for a very long time. The dispute over the ownership of the land required for the Kharoti school project brought to the surface a conflict that had been simmering for 30 years.

 

Originally sparked by a land rights issue, the conflict had cost the lives of over 20 people from both tribes and had left one tribe in blood debt to the other, as the number of deaths was not equal on both sides. This had various consequences: internal fines for contact with the other tribe, a ban on use of the main road in this remote region, resulting in hours of travel on mountainous paths for daily needs and access to health care; and the reciprocal impeding of potentially beneficial projects offered by important national and international organizations.

 

The successful implementation of the Kharoti School project was a milestone in the history of these two tribes. According to ORD's description of the situation, the older generation in both tribes still clings to the idea of revenge in order to get even, but the younger people are hoping to solve the situation in a different way. The fact that this project has not been blocked is therefore seen by ORD as the possible start of a new cycle of more supportive action.


In practice the Mangal tribe opened the road for construction machinery and material to be transported after ORD became involved in the process. After a joint meeting of the elders of both tribes failed because of the refusal of one of the tribes to cooperate, ORD initiated talks with a member of the parliament, himself a Mangal, who was aware of his responsibility to care for all the inhabitants of this region, including the Kharoti, and declared his support for the project. He and the Provincial Governor of Paktya convinced the Mangal elders to allow the project to take place by holding out the possibility of future projects for the Mangals also being implemented.

 

ORD has identified a need on both sides for assistance in solving the conflict and therefore sees the successful implementation of the Kharoti School project as the start of a different approach to finding a solution , with a growing awareness on both sides that education will eventually change perceptions and perspectives, even in these kind of conflicts.

 

School under tree

With the opening of Kharoti School, approximately 400 children and youngsters in this isolated region of Afghanistan, as well as the bordering Pakistani region just 4km away, are now being provided with continuous access to education.

 

A step toward bridging the gap between traditional and formal education has been made, as the religious scholars of the region are supporting the idea of formal education and recommending families to send their children to school.

 

As far as the education situation prior to the project is concerned, it needs to be said that of the entire population of the Kharoti tribe, consisting of about 300 families, 97% lacked basic education, the other 3% being religious scholars without any awareness of modern education, and 90% of Kharoti youngsters were recruited by the Afghan National Army or the Border Police as they lacked any other prospects. The sheer isolation and lack of security in the region meant that the only schooling that was occasionally available took place outside, in the shadow of a tree, heavily dependent on the weather conditions (heat, rain and long, cold winters).