Future uncertain for schools in Afghanistan built by Alberta non-profit

·2 min read
Eric Rajah in a class with students in Afghanistan. Rajah's non-profit A Better World Canada built 14 schools in the country. (Submitted by Eric Rajah - image credit)
Eric Rajah in a class with students in Afghanistan. Rajah's non-profit A Better World Canada built 14 schools in the country. (Submitted by Eric Rajah - image credit)

Eric Rajah is relieved to know the schools he built in Afghanistan are still standing, even if they're closed.

"I'm happy that the schools are not destroyed. That was my first worry," Rajah told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

Rajah is the founder of A Better World Canada, a non-profit organization based in Lacombe, Alta. Founded in 1990, the non-profit invests in education, essential health care and clean water in 15 countries around the world.

Since 2004, the organization has built 14 schools in Afghanistan. But the schools have been shuttered since the Taliban took over on Aug. 15.

The Taliban have burned down hundreds of schools in Afghanistan, both in the period they last ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, and in more recent times.

Rajah feared the same fate awaited those he had built over the past 17 years.

"But this time, that has not happened and the community feels strongly that they can return the students back to school," he said. "We don't know when, but we are hoping that will happen."

The schools built by the non-profit had both boys and girls in grades 1 to 9. Although the schools could house anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 students, students attended the school in shifts due to infrastructure problems.

Rajah said a total of 4,500 students attended the schools daily.

He said his project managers on the ground in Afghanistan are keeping an eye on the schools for now, making sure the Taliban have not taken them over. He worries for his project manager living in Kabul.

Many citizens have reported the Taliban going door-to-door looking for anyone who worked with United States or Canadian forces or for the former Afghan government.

"That's what he's telling me, that he is afraid for himself and his family because he works with us," Rajah said.

Although the future is uncertain, Rajah holds out hope that one day students will return to school.

"Nothing more beautiful than seeing our children going back to our schools," he said.

Rajah hopes the years he has invested in the communities will result in the people taking ownership of the buildings.

"This is their buildings. And they would do everything to protect it and look at education as the future way to build their society and their communities."

He said he would like to continue supporting these schools as long as the timing is right and they can find investment.

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