Education in Afghanistan
Published by UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"
"NATIONAL UNION OF CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"
A student enjoying new facilities in a newly constructed classroom in Kabul. Funded by the Japanese government and in partnership with the ministry of Education, UNICEF has constructed 1000 new classrooms that have benefited more than 300,000 students.
Under the Taliban, violence and intimidation were used to prevent girls and women from attending school. After the regime’s fall in 2001, UNICEF became the Government’s leading partner in the reconstruction of the education sector, a relationship that continues today.
On 24 March 2002, at the start of the Afghan New Year and only three months after the interim government was created, three million Afghan children (one third of them girls) gained access to 3,000 schools across Afghanistan with the support of UNICEF led Back-to-School-Campaign. Many of these children were entering a formal classroom for the first time in six years.
Since then, education in Afghanistan has witnessed tremendous gains. More than 8.3 million children are in school in Afghanistan today and nearly 40 per cent of them are girls.
UNICEF provides technical and financial support to the Ministry of Education (MoE) in the formation of policy and legislation, capacity development of teachers and administrators, building an information management system, developing new curriculum, promoting girls’ enrolment and conducting outreach to out-of-school and marginalised children. UNICEF’s partnership with the Ministry of Education, community and school shuras (councils) and village leaders, supports school construction and other school improvement programmes.
There are four key components under the education programme.
Access and Retention
UNICEF has been supporting the establishment of Community Based Schools
(CBS), Accelerated Learning Centres (ALC) and the
construction of new classrooms to reach out-of-school children, especially
girls and children from marginalised communities.
Country-wide initiatives ensure that once children are in school, they
receive education of enhanced quality. UNICEF’s global Child Friendly School
(CFS) strategy has been adopted by the Ministry of Education and includes a
holistic approach of inclusiveness, child-centered learning and provision of a
safe, healthy, and protective environment.
Female literacy programmes supported by UNICEF
provide women between the ages of 15-24 with basic reading, writing and
numeracy skills, as well as vital information on health, nutrition, hygiene and
sanitation that can benefit their well-being and that of their children and
Global Partnership for Education (GPE)
In 2011, UNICEF played a leading role in assisting the MoE
in applying for the Global Partnership for Education Development fund and
Afghanistan was approved by the GPE board. This means Afghanistan is one of 47
countries that have access to GPE development funds of USD 55.7 million meant
to improve access to quality basic education over a 3 year period. UNICEF
serves as Supervising Entity to Afghanistan’s partnership with the GPE,
overseeing both programme implementation and
UNICEF is committed to work closely with the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, in delivering quality education and learning for those children who are out of school. This high level meeting in NY on 25 September 2013 was a reaffirmation of the commitment to make education for all a reality for those invisible and most disadvantaged children.
Current situation and key issues:
Remarkable progress has been made in education in Afghanistan in terms of
students’ enrolment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Students’ enrolment
has increased tremendously for both boys and girls from just 900,000 in 2001 to
around 8.3 million in 2011 of which 39 per cent are females (EMIS, 2012) with
joint efforts of partners including UNICEF. However, the progress is viewed as
“fragile, limited in reach, depth and uncertainty of sustainability” (UNICEF
Education SitAn, 2013). The status of boys and girls
in education in Afghanistan continues to be compromised in terms of access,
quality and gender equality. Only 50 per cent of eligible children are enrolled
in schools while approximately 3 million children, especially children in
remote, mountainous and insecure areas remain out of school. This is also exacerbated
by the estimated 15 per cent of students who remain on the books for up to 3
years, but are actually out of school as “permanent absentees”. The status of
girls in education is considerably lower than boys with a Gender Parity Index
(GPI) of 0.74.
The shortage of schools and insufficient infrastructure resulting in long walking distances to schools combined with the general insecurity is one of the biggest causes for low enrolment. There are currently about 14,000 schools of which only 15 per cent are for girls and 50 per cent are without usable buildings, safe water and sanitation facilities. Almost all schools operate on multiple shifts based on reduced instructional schedule which negatively impacts on quality. It is estimated that it will take 13 years at the current rate of school construction of 500 per year for the Government to meet demand. The lack of female teachers, especially in the rural schools is one of the main reasons for the low enrollment of girls. Out of 172,000 teachers, only 31 per cent are females and only very few of these are in rural schools. In addition, socio-cultural factors that undermine girls’ education, inadequate as well as separate sanitation facilities for girls, insecurity and the absence of community based schools near communities are some of the barriers to girls’ enrollment.
Despite the challenging programming environment, Attendance net enrolment ratio for boys and girls has increased from 52 per cent in 2007/08 to 55 per cent in 2010/11, the girls’ primary enrolment increased from 1,899,000 in 2009 to 2,097,000 in 2011(EMIS 2012) but the gender parity index slightly increased from 0.70 in 2007/08 to 0.74 in 2010/11, with joint efforts of partners including UNICEF (MICS 2010 and MICS 2012). Over 219,170 children were enrolled through the community based schools of which, 55 per cent children were enrolled with UNICEF support.
Public education is a relatively recent concept in Afghanistan.
It wasn't until 1969 that the Afghan government legislated free, mandatory education for children between the ages of 7 and 15. Unfortunately, the provision of schools, teachers, and books lagged far behind the legislation.
Before 1969, schools existed, but whether or not a child attended school was completely up to his or her family. Some families thought that education was important and made sacrifices to secure their children’s education, including sending them away to relatives if local schooling wasn't available. Other families provided religious training for their sons. Some families simply did not send their children to school.
It was still possible to receive an education, and determined families with sufficient resources could educate their children. There were secondary schools in urban areas and a university in Kabul. Since all education above the primary level was provided in Dari, all educated Afghans are fluent in that language, regardless of their ethnic group.
During the Soviet occupation, the Soviets were interested in building up the education system and extending education into the rural areas but their efforts failed. It was reported that in at least one area the Afghans responded to the establishment of Soviet-backed schools by killing the teachers, ostensibly because boys and girls were expected to sit in the same classroom. After the Soviets withdrew, what was left of the education system fell completely apart in the ensuing civil war. Kabul University closed, its faculty members dispersing to Pakistan, Iran, or the West. Children were either taught at home, in the local mosque, or not at all.
Under the Taliban, secular education did not exist.
Boys received religious education, but girls were forbidden education altogether. Parents who wanted their children educated had to arrange for private tutoring in informal groups at home.
Following the fall of the Taliban, Kabul University was reopened to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan also opened its doors, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan. The university accepts students from Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. Construction work will soon start at the new site selected for University of Balkh in Mazari Sharif. The new building for the university, including the building for the Engineering Department, would be constructed at 600 acres (2.4 square kilometers) of land at the cost of $250 million (USD). A new military school is in function to properly train and educate Afghan soldiers.
As of 2013, more than 10 million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout Afghanistan.
However, there are still significant obstacles to education within the country due to lack of funding, unsafe school buildings, and cultural norms. A lack of women teachers is an issue that concerns some Afghan parents, especially in more conservative areas. Some parents will not allow their daughters to be taught by men.
Literacy of the Afghan population is estimated at 28.1% (male 43.1%; female 12.6%), although real figures may be lower. There are approximately 16,000 schools in the country.
Despite the dramatic increase in the number of schools in Afghanistan, many fall short, providing lackluster education in broken-down buildings, and undersupplied, overcrowded classrooms, teaching for only a few hours before the next shift of students arrives. Teachers are frequently unqualified, having never graduated high school themselves. There is an unfortunate tendency for well-meaning organizations to build schools and move on, leaving the school’s fate in the hands of haphazard local administration and chance. Sadly, many investments in Afghanistan’s education are short-lived.
This is why, for the seventh straight year, Razia’s Ray of Hope has sponsored and operated the Zabuli Education Center, provides more than 550 girls with free education as well as uniforms, shoes, warm coats, and meals. Our Afghan staff of 28 teachers and administrators is supported by a small, US-based foundation team. We provide groundbreaking instruction to disadvantaged girls in a region with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Where many existing schools fail to meet even rudimentary standards, our school is exemplary. A Ministry of Education official said of the Zabuli Education Center: “It is perfect.”
Sponsoring one student is only $300 a year. The life of every student we add to our school is permanently changed for the better; these changes ripple through their family, community, and country. Donate here to change a girl’s life forever.
Sources: Embassy of Afghanistan, Washington DC; Afghan Ministry of Education; Cal.org.