Teachers in Nangarhar float to school on inner tubes

Every morning, the teachers of Bili High School in Afghanistan make their way to the river carrying inner tubes.

The use them to commute to the school they teach at in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, paddling their rafts across fast-moving water to get to the other side of the 46-metre-wide river.

There are no bridges or boats to make the journey easier and for years, 12 of the 15 staff have used this means of transport, weathering higher water levels after rain.

The school they teach at currently has 1,040 students, including girls attending primary classes. It was opened in 2004, but the education ministry told them just three years later the school complex was too dilapidated for use. There are only three classrooms left now and most of the classes are held outdoors.

“You can see the school building is damaged and all the windows are broken,” said Noor Rahman, who has been teaching Pashto language at the school for 15 years.

“We don’t have enough textbooks, we don’t have books for Grade 9, 10, 11, and 12,” he said, adding it has been four years since books were last distributed to the province.

Teachers like Rahman have no other way to make a living. The meagre salary between 6,000 and 8,000 Afghani ($69 to 92) per month is hardly enough to support his family, Rahman says, even though transport to the school is free.

“Life goes on anyway; there is poverty in general,” he says.

After decades of war, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Its financial crisis has only worsened since the return of the Taliban to power in mid-August, 2021.