Lessons in nation building: empty schools
Documenting yet another disturbing shortcoming of the rebuilding efforts that America has combined with its war on terror, a new government report says that after pouring $868 million over the last 15 years into Afghanistan’s education system, there’s ample basis to question Afghan officials’ student numbers.
Auditors from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction visited 25 schools in Herat province. Afghan officials claimed those schools’ average enrollment was 2,639 students. The auditors observed an average of just 561, or 23 percent of what Afghan officials claimed, according to NBC News.
The Afghan government funds Afghan schools, but with money donated by other nations — and with the United States as the biggest donor, using U.S. taxpayer dollars. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which has claimed Afghan enrollment supposedly rising more than eightfold since 2002 as evidence of progress, says so few site visits aren’t sufficient to substantiate the suspicions raised by the auditors.
Add as well that auditors found many of those 25 schools crumbling, lacking even reliable electricity and clean water, and it’s hard to not think that the same sort of corruption that has bedeviled U.S. nation-building in Afghanistan, generally, bedevils its schools, too.
And if that’s the case, the real question is why America continues to spend so much of Americans’ money there, to so little positive effect.
Last week, a 34-year-old Montour County man was found dead with a hypodermic needle still in his arm and others found at the scene. According to county coroner association data, nearly 10 people a day overdosed in Pennsylvania in 2015, and there are no indications it’s going to be different in 2016.
Also last week, 25-yearold George Botticher waived a preliminary hearing regarding his alleged role in the overdose death of a Snyder County man this summer. That means the felony charge of drug delivery resulting in death will head to trial. Botticher is accused of providing heroin to John-Michael Arcuri, who was found dead from an overdose in his home in July. The case is similar to one in Columbia County, in which a 30-year-old Bloomsburg man is accused of providing heroin to a Danville man who died.
As we’ve said before, these cases are difficult to prosecute, simply because the direct connection between supplier and user can be difficult to prove. Evidence is also tough to come by, but in the Columbia County case, police were able to link the dealer to the Danville man through cell phone records.
That’s not always the case, however.
“There tend to be some challenges in these types of cases,” Montour County District Attorney Angie Mattis said. “I’ve already seen cases where the scene has been cleaned up before the coroner gets there. As you might imagine, friends and some associates of some of these individuals don’t tend to talk because they tend to be users themselves.” Additionally, Mattis said the stigma that comes with drug abuse also keeps potential witnesses quiet. But when will it be enough? These two local cases offer a possible game-changer in this battle. More charges — and convictions — could lead to a public shift, eliminating more potential barriers to slowing this out-of-control epidemic.