Canada’s Afghan legacy: Shoddy school buildings and sagging morale
By Paul Watson, The Star, July 15, 2012
BAQI TANAH, AFGHANISTAN—The Pakistan border is a short walk through the desert from this village, and the rutted road that winds past it is a main thoroughfare for smugglers, Taliban insurgents and corrupt Afghan border police.
They all compete for the villagers’ loyalties, which shift as easily as the sand beneath their dusty feet, depending on who presents the biggest threat, or holds out the most alluring promises.
Canada hoped to win them over by building a new school just two years ago. Village elder Haji Abdul Raziq, an overbearing greybeard, named the school after himself.
He also took full credit for the gift from Canadians, at least until it quickly began to fall apart. Now, he tells his people that Canadians bungled the project because they didn’t give enough money.
The concrete walls are cracked and crumbling around the flimsy wooden door frames.
The paint, actually a thin splash of whitewash, is rubbing off where it isn’t covered with grime and graffiti.
READ MORE: Canada’s Afghan legacy: Failure at Dahla dam
There isn’t a stick of furniture in any of the classrooms, and a single, metal-framed blackboard sits propped against the front wall, the rough concrete floor covered in a layer of dirt that blows in through cracked windows.
The best-equipped side of the school is actually a health clinic.
A classroom in what was one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “signature projects” in the Taliban’s birthplace has been turned into a curtained maternity ward.
Across the hall, another classroom is a well-stocked pharmacy where a man in a white lab coat dispenses medicine to women enshrouded in burqas, balancing infants on their laps.
Women sitting on rough-hewn benches in the dark hallway, the hoods of their heavy burqa veils draped over their shoulders, tittered and grumbled at the first glimpse of a foreign male.
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Related: How millions in Canadian aid have failed to bring justice to Afghanistan
Also See: Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan
For Background See: Taliban Commander: We Cannot win war and al-Qaida is a plague - Guardian