A few months before he was abducted in Herat, Indian aid worker Alexis Premkumar had strongly advocated girls’ education in Afghanistan and talked about how the aid agency, which he headed in the strife-torn country, was working towards it.
In an interview to the in-house radio of his organisation, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Premkumar had said that the agency was providing technical education to about 200 girls along with 500 boys in Herat, besides running three schools in Kabul that primarily focused on girls’ education.
He had also complained of poor response to the school in Sohadat, the place he visited shortly before being abducted by gunmen on Monday, because of “lack of water and unemployment”.
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The nine-minute interview, which he gave in November last year, has been uploaded on the JRS-USA website.
In the interview, Premkumar said, “We need to provide quality education to girls because girls need to learn a lot in this country…. (In Herat) we run the school. Nearly 200 children are studying. We have for both boys and girls… For the boys, we have it outside, in a rented building. (In Kabul) we run three government schools and the emphasis is on girls’ education.”
According to Premkumar and the JRS website, the organisation has been working in the field of education in Afghanistan since 2005. It started working in Herat in 2008.
According to its website, JRS has been helping those who are returning home from exile in Iran and Pakistan, and providing education and healthcare services in Bamiyan, Kabul and Herat. In his interview, Premkumar said the JRS has also constructed buildings and created infrastructure to facilitate training in Afghanistan. He expressed hope that the “world community works towards ending war and bringing in peace in Afghanistan”.
Joy Karayampuram, a spokesperson for JRS, said there was no information if Premkumar’s abduction is linked to his work. “We have no information on this. We know that the Afghan government is doing what is required to trace Premkumar. We have no clue about what could be the reason,” he said.