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Children in AfghanistanConflict in Afghanistan has persisted for more than two decades, with active U.S. involvement starting in October 2001. Political instability, violence, and persecution led to the displacement of more than 360,000 people in 2017 alone. This displacement causes a lack of stability in employment, shelter, food, and education, In times of ongoing conflict, safety becomes the top priority, and education is largely neglected. While conflicts must be resolved, improving access to education in Afghanistan is critical to enable this nation to reduce poverty and improve overall quality of life.

Targeted Attacks on Girls’ Education

While the lack of access to education in Afghanistan stems from a range of political and social conflicts, there have also been direct attacks on girls’ education. UNICEF reports that around 3.7 million children are not enrolled in school in Afghanistan, and girls make up 60 percent of that number. Terrorist groups such as the Taliban specifically target girls’ education institutions because they believe women should not be educated.

According to Human Rights Watch, bombings and acid attacks are not uncommon forms of violence at girls’ schools. In Kandahar, one such attack in 2008 that injured 15 girls led many families to prevent their daughters from attending school. Fear of violence is a prominent reason that many girls in Afghanistan do not receive an education.

Barriers to Education Access

Besides targeted attacks, girls are less likely to attend school for cultural reasons, including expectations to marry at a young age and raise children. The demand for teachers and schools remains relatively low, as geographic barriers such as terrain, climate, and location effect school attendance. According to UNICEF, only 48 percent of teachers have attained the minimum required qualifications to teach. As conflicts continue, expanding access to education in Afghanistan will be difficult. International policies such as the Safe Schools Declaration, which protects education during violent conflict, can help encourage children to attend school. Foreign aid can also provide resources to give teachers better training and updated classroom materials.

How Can Education Reduce Poverty?

Improved access to education will profoundly impact Afghanistan’s poverty rate and overall economic health. Education is critical to “break the cycle of poverty,” as ChildFund International states. Educated individuals are more likely to hold jobs, which increases economic security and can help lift people out of poverty. Children with educated parents or caregivers are more likely to attend school, which can help ensure economic security in the future.

In Afghanistan’s Yakawlang District, the Rustam School teaches 330 girls and 146 boys–a sign that education access is improving in some parts of Afghanistan. The Rustam School had a 92 percent college entrance rate in 2017. This school’s success is possible due to the Taliban’s exit from the area surrounding Rustam School, making parents more willing to send their children. The school inspires children to pursue careers that have higher earning potential than the agricultural work common to families. If more institutions in Afghanistan can follow the Rustam School’s example, perhaps education access will expand for both girls and boys, and a new generation of educated citizens will help to stabilize Afghanistan’s politics and expand its economy.

– Erin Grant
Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan has been in the midst of a war for several decades. While the conditions of war have the ability to stunt progress, the Afghans are unwilling to let their education system crumble. Whether it be national initiatives or programs developed by smaller organizations, education in Afghanistan continues to make progress.

In recent years, Afghanistan has made drastic progress in its education system. In 2002, about 900,000 boys attended school; girls, on the other hand, were not given the same opportunities. Most girls were educated at home to read and write but not much more. With the help of private donors, these numbers have begun to drastically change, and the Ministry of Education has since been able to build 16,000 schools across the country.

Now, there are over nine million students in Afghanistan, 40 percent of which are girls, a stark contrast to the state of education 15 years ago.

Not only is the government working towards creating a better education system throughout the country, but privately-owned companies are trying to make positive changes as well. Teach for Afghanistan, a sector of Teach for All, has been avidly working toward enrolling more students in school. While numbers of adolescents in school have been on the rise, there are still over three million children unenrolled in school, with two million of those actively working instead.

Additionally, schools still do not have enough teachers, leading the student to teacher ratio to be 111 students to one teacher.

In order to combat this problem, Teach for Afghanistan’s founder, Rahmatullah Arman, has helped obtain more teachers around the country. In the eastern province of Nangarhar, there are 80 graduates from Afghan universities teaching 23,000 students in 21 schools as part of the program.

When selecting fellows to teach for the program, it was important to the program to hire many female teachers to try and change the mindset for female education in Afghanistan. It is common for girls to be pulled from school, but the teachers try to reach out to parents and keep as many girls in school as possible.

Education in Afghanistan isn’t perfect; there are millions of boys and girls who are uneducated and female schooling is still seen as less essential to families throughout the country.

While there are still changes that need to be made, many people, as well as the government, recognize the importance of a strong education in giving their people the best chance in the future.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Education in AfghanistanUNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne has stated that when children living in conflict zones are unable to access education opportunities they fail to develop even basic skills in reading and writing, putting them at risk of “losing their futures and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their economies and societies when they reach adulthood.” This point highlights the need for improving education in Afghanistan, where years of conflict has wreaked havoc on the system.

According to UNICEF, 40 percent of school-aged children in Afghanistan are not enrolled in an educational program. This is due to ongoing violence, poor access and lack of funding, as well as persistent barriers for girls in obtaining an education. The fact that such a large portion of children are not in school becomes more concerning when it is noted that schools are more than simply a place of learning: in conflict zones schools provide the stability and structure necessary for children to cope with the trauma inflicted upon their daily lives. Children who do not have this resource face an increased risk of abuse, exploitation and attempted recruitment by militant groups.

After witnessing the effects of school improvements in India, Rahmatullah Arman was moved to emulate similar reforms in his home country of Afghanistan. Upon completing his studies at the University of Pune where he volunteered with Teach for India, he began laying the groundwork for what would later become Teach For Afghanistan.

Arman told BBC News that his largest inspiration is the aspiration that, while many people have lost their future to years of conflict and uncertainty, their children may still have a future. Fourteen years of foreign-backed reconstruction has resulted in 3.6 million children out of school, a majority of unqualified teachers and an adult illiteracy rate of 60 percent, leaving many without hope, but Arman’s program will undoubtedly have an impact on the quality and accessibility of education in Afghanistan.

Teach for Afghanistan came to fruition in 2013, partnering with Teach for All, an organization created by Teach for America and Teach First in 2007. As the program developed, teacher recruitment began, with Arman setting selective criteria to ensure credible volunteers. Teach for Afghanistan received 3,000 applications for just 80 positions. Ninety-nine percent of applicants were from Afghan universities, a signal that Arman’s country supports his mission to improve education in Afghanistan.

Afghan girls face significant cultural barriers to obtaining a full education, as many believe that being able to read and write is sufficient. Teach for Afghanistan emphasizes the importance of educating girls and many of the teaching fellows are young women. The goal is to demonstrate that girls can be well-educated, hold a good job and still adhere to the more traditional cultural aspirations for young women as successful wives and mothers.

Arman reports that there has been no violent interference with the program, noting that the organization’s strong relationships with community and religious leaders act as a measure of security. He also cites youth education as the most effective tool to counter the growth of terrorism and extremism.

Teach for Afghanistan will open its first 21 programs to students this month in one province, but the ultimate goal is to expand to the entire country. To do so would be to provide Afghan children and families with a resource integral to their health and well-being. The 80 fellows selected have been placed in 21 high-need schools that serve more than 23,000 students, ensuring that Teach for Afghanistan is beginning to bring hope where it is needed most.

Alena Zafonte

Photo: Flickr

Education in Afghanistan
At Mirman, Khajo Secondary School students hurry into class bundled up in their winter uniforms. The school bell chimes. Teachers rush around the room handing out tests. Just a few years ago this wasn’t a reality. The school was recently built as part of the country’s major push to bring access to education to its populace as well as improve the overall standing of education in Afghanistan.

U.S ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens stated that Afghanistan has made significant educational strides over the past 15 years, but also emphasized that the nation still has a lot of room left for improvement.

According to Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan, people find education is one of the only sectors where the Afghan people feel that the government has made an improvement. The Ministry of Education, with support from USAID, has created a widespread community-based class system, built 16,000 schools and hired and trained more than 154,000 teachers. As a result, enrollment has increased by 60 percent, more than nine million students, 40 percent of whom are girls.

In Afghanistan, 80 percent of the people own smart phones. This prevalence of technology and internet access further aids education in Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation, for example, has developed an education app designed to improve reading skills in grades one through three. The organization has also developed online mock exams to prepare students for the real ones.

The increase of access to education in Afghanistan has also improved higher education. According to the Afghan Central Statistics Organization, public university enrollment has increased from 7,800 in 2001 to 174,425 in 2015, with 21 percent of those students being women.

While Afghanistan has increased education access, it has not achieved the quality of education. Only 30 percent of Afghan students score high enough on the standardized tests to make it into college. While good private schools exist, many public schools are poorly administrated. Irfan, a 10-year-old Afghan student, claims that in public school there are only two lessons a week and teachers will often chase students out of the classroom so they can listen to music.

In order to lift itself out of strife and economic woes, Afghanistan needs an educated public. The government has done incredible work in creating access to education; now it just needs to focus on monitoring public and private schools in order to improve education in Afghanistan.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax
Photo: Flickr

ghost_schools
Since 2001, enrollment numbers for education in Afghanistan have increased due to international aid for ‘ghost schools’ from the U.S. as well as other world governments. In 2013, USAID reported that attendance reached eight million students—an immense increase from the 900,000 students in 2002.

So far, the U.S. has spent $769 million on education and ghost schools in Afghanistan in order to increase the number of schools, teachers and students. However, recent reports show the number of students enrolled may be exaggerated, causing many people to question if taxpayer dollars are being wasted.

Canada is not concerned with the allegations and believes the aid makes a difference in enrollment numbers along with the construction of new schools. So how many ‘ghost students’ are attending school?

John Sopko, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, reported that Afghan officials counted absent students for enrollment. According to Sopko, the number of absent students in 2014 listed as “enrolled” was 1.55 million students, which means enrollment figures have still increased since 2001.

Despite the allegations or possible exaggerations, aid to education in Afghanistan is still an effective way to increase primary school enrollment numbers.

The U.S. has only spent one percent of its total rebuilding budget in Afghanistan on education. In that time, more than 13,000 schools have been built with the help of USAID and other donors. More than 180,000 teachers have been trained to support higher enrollment for school-aged children. Literacy rates in Afghanistan have increased by five percent since 2008 and about 38 percent of the population above the age of 15 is literate.

Any allegation about false data in the enrollment numbers for education in Afghanistan needs to be taken seriously, but not without recognizing the many successes created in Afghanistan’s education system.

There are many challenges to setting up an efficient educational system in Afghanistan that is sustainable. Due to low economic output and U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, it is a more difficult environment to work in.

USAID and the World Bank have been working with the Ministry of Education to improve data reliability and improve education policies. The National Education Strategic Plan III that runs from 2014 to 2020 strives to improve education through areas such as General Education, Science and Technology and Teacher Education.

In order to protect investments and the improvements of education in Afghanistan, USAID and other organizations committed to education need to improve the way that data is reported. Also, Aid needs to continue in order to help rebuild Afghanistan and improve the lives of school-aged children within the country.

– Donald Gering

Sources: Globe and Mail, NBC News, NPR, Social Progress Imperative, USAID, Vice News
Photo: The Huffington Post

education in afghanistan
To say the least, the nation of Afghanistan has had a difficult start to the 21st Century. The brutal Taliban regime and September 11th led to the invasion by the U.S., whose occupation of the country has been long and tumultuous. While lifting the occupation at the end of 2014 could portend a turning point for the embattled nation, there are worries about the direction Afghanistan will head.

With this upcoming change, the best hope for the future lies in establishing a strong system of education in Afghanistan, something that has been struggling to work since well before the U.S. occupation.

When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s, they actually did some work attempting to expand an education system set up by the prior regime. According to the nonprofit foundation Razia’s Ray of Hope, a group promoting education in Afghanistan, “the Soviets were interested in building up the education system and extending education into the rural areas.”

Bitterness towards the Soviet occupiers resulted in those efforts ending in failure, resulting in the murders of some Soviet-backed teachers.

With the takeover of the Taliban in 1996, much of the education infrastructure that had been built up under old regimes came crashing down. The Taliban instituted strict religious education and banned women from getting an education. The University of Kabul was closed, cutting off the biggest higher learning institution in the country.

This reflected the uneducated populace the Taliban hoped to institute in order to establish their authoritarian rule, and the dangers that the lack of a stable education system carries.

The long U.S. occupation has caused a of turmoil for the people of Afghanistan. A state of constant warfare obviously is not the ideal situation to build a promising generation of citizens.

However, strides have been made in that direction. Education for women has been established again, despite the objections of some remaining hardliners. International aid has led to initiatives for building schools and the reestablishment of universities. Soon after the fall of the Taliban, the University of Kabul was re-opened, and in 2006 the American University of Afghanistan was built, a private university with special programs for the advancement of women.

Still, there have been many challenges in this process. Remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan have interfered with education efforts, destroying schools and attacking women attempting to gain their independence. Also, the current Afghan government has had issues of corruption, even with the safeguards by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Since 2001 the United States has spent $19 billion in developing Afghanistan’s infrastructure, still Afghanistan was ranked 175th in the Human Development Index.

Despite the difficulties in establishing a stable system of education in Afghanistan has gone through, the process is still of huge importance. The history of Afghanistan itself shows that. Investment in education is key to not only avoiding poverty, but creating a responsible citizenry. Organizations like the Borgen Project advocate for the importance of these issues and will continue to do so in the future.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Razia’s Ray of Hope, PBS, American University of Afghanistan, UN Human Development Reports
Photo: MSP Mentor