Girls’ Education in AfghanistanPolitical and economic instability have been facts of life in Afghanistan for decades. However, one of the few institutions that has made a significant recovery is the education system. There are still twice as many boys in school as there are girls. However, since 2008, the overall number of girls in school has gone up significantly.

Changing attitudes about girls’ education in Afghanistan have bolstered female enrollment rates. This shift has, in turn, increased support for public education in general and foreign aid—particularly from the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID statistics offer some encouraging numbers to support this:

  • Of 9 million children enrolled in schools, 3.5 million are girls,
  • USAID has distributed over 170 million textbooks, and
  • USAID has helped train 280,000 new teachers.

The Rustam School

One promising example of this shift forward is the Rustam School, located in the Yakawlang district. The Rustam School possesses a small student body of only a few hundred. Nevertheless, 92 percent of its graduating class moved onto Afghanistan’s public universities in 2017.

Inverting the country’s enrollment statistics, two-thirds of the Rustam School’s students are girls. To note, the Taliban outlawed girls’ education in Afghanistan and pushed many boys into Islamic studies, rather than popular STEM courses. However, students, particularly girls, apply themselves rigorously to their education. They go so far as to learn the Windows operating systems without the aid of a computer.

The Fight for Education

Unlike in the United States, where public K-12 education is universal, the fight for education in Afghanistan has a checkered past. As far back as the 1970s, mujaheddin resistance fighters (rebelling against the USSR’s attempted occupation of Afghanistan) were killing government-paid teachers and closing down their schools.

With over half of the country’s 36 million citizens under the age of 18, the investment and safeguarding of education are more critical than ever. In recognition of this fact, USAID, the Pentagon and the State Department have invested $759 million in primary and secondary education over the last 17 years. These investments have fostered the changing attitudes of both local politicians and regional power-brokers—with the constant exception of the Taliban.

Though the expansion and protection of girls’ education in Afghanistan have had much progress, there is still room for improvement. The majority of Afghan girls are not enrolled in public school. This is explained by two main factors. First, most Afghan girls still marry at a very young age (for a variety of sociocultural factors). Subsequently, this causes a lack of female teachers and all-girls’ schools. Second, Afghanistan faces logistical difficulty when it comes to extending education to rural areas. Long walks to school sometimes have significant geographical barriers along the way that physically prevent students from attending. Also, many rural families are subsistence farmers; it is difficult for students to go to school if they have animals or crops to look after. However, the Rustam School proves that though providing education to rural Afghan children may be difficult, it is not impossible.

The Future of Education

Despite the recent progress and development of education in Afghanistan since the early 2000s, significant hurdles exist for girls’ education. The country’s education system must still be further advanced. However, a local initiative can make do with minimal resources and reach out to rural areas—like the Rustam School. Most importantly, despite its shortcomings, Afghanistan’s primary and secondary education systems offer success stories of what foreign aid can accomplish, especially if maintained over long periods of time.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Education in AfghanistanAfter the war with the Soviet Union and the subsequent takeover of the country by the Taliban, access to education in Afghanistan was limited. Moreover, the education system that was in place in that period was less than adequate. However, since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001 and the installment of a more democratic government in Afghanistan, the nation’s education system has seen improvements.

Facts About Education in Afghanistan

  1. In 2002, after the Taliban were overthrown by a U.S.-led coalition army, it was estimated that only about one million children were attending school. Of that number, the vast majority were boys.
  2. Prior to 2002, any education that children received was dominated by religion. Children were educated through the Quran and the teachings of Mohammed. Little attention was paid to courses in science, technology or liberal arts.
  3. Under the Taliban government, girls were pretty much prohibited from obtaining an education. Little education that girls did receive was based on scripture from the Quran, and basic reading and writing skills.
  4. College enrollment was also minimal while the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. In 2001, only 1% of college-aged students were enrolled in an institution for higher education.
  5.  After the Taliban regime was overthrown, the number of students enrolling in colleges and universities increased. According to USAID (United States Agency for International Development), over 9.2 million students are currently enrolled in a higher education institution, and 39% of those students are female.
  6. Public and private universities (excluding technical or secondary schools) enroll around 300,000 students. Of that number, about 100,000 are female students.
  7. Access to education has also increased in recent years. As of 2016-2017, over 119,000 children in rural areas had access to education.
  8. In recent years, there has also been an emphasis on training and equipping teachers on how best to serve and educate the expanding number of students. USAID has trained over 154,000 teachers. Of that number of educators, over one third are women.
  9. The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), the first private, independent, non-profit university in Afghanistan strives to expand educational opportunities for women. Its’ current student body is almost 41% female. This is quite impressive, given Afghanistan’s history of denying education opportunities to women and young girls.
  10. While the above facts showcase some of the accomplishments that have occurred in Afghanistan in the last 15 years, much work still needs to be done. For example, the overall literacy rate is still sub-par for most of the nation and many students still do not have easy access to schools. Also, many Afghan children cross the border to go to Pakistan so they can be taught in madrassas’, where Islamic fundamentalism is rampant.

Much has improved in the last several years regarding education in Afghanistan. Hopefully, this text will inspire you, the reader, about the necessity and importance of continuing the work of groups like USAID in helping in much-needed areas and countries. With international aid and support, the gains that Afghanistan has made in recent years, in education and in other areas, will not be in vain.

– Raymond Terry
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in Afghanistan
When it comes to education in Afghanistan, the structure has been destroyed by years of consistent conflict and political instability. Unfortunately, young girls seem to suffer a great deal as a result, receiving a lower quality of education, or being out of school all together. These top ten facts about girls’ education in Afghanistan give a brief rundown of the various obstacles girls face in receiving proper schooling.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Afghanistan

  1. UNICEF has recently reported that approximately 3.7 million children are out of school, and 60 percent of those children are female. That’s 1 in every 3 girls attending school everyday, which is the steepest drop in school attendance in 16 years. In fact, UNICEF stated that “the ongoing conflict and worsening security situation across the country, combined with deeply ingrained poverty and discrimination against girls, have pushed the rate of out-of-school children up for the first time since 2002 levels.”
  2. The level of literacy among boys is much higher at 66 percent, while the literacy rate of young girls is just 37 percent. The Afghanistan government has not provided as many schools for girls as it has boys at primary and secondary levels.
  3. A lack of female teachers, specifically in rural areas, may be a reason for low enrollment of girls. In half of all Afghan provinces less than 20 percent of all teachers are female, and in some families it is unacceptable for young, soon-to-be adolescent girls to be taught by a male teacher.
  4. Gender norms also frequently come into play. In some instances, families see boys’ education as being of greater importance than that of girls’, or as superfluous, only necessary in the years before puberty. About one third of girls are married before the age of 18 and are then urged to discontinue their education.
  5. In some schools there is a lack of sanitation and access to clean and safe private toilets (this is also a problem worldwide). Girls tend to need access to bathroom facilities more often than boys, especially with the onset of puberty and menstruation. Without a proper place to get rid of waste and wash, there is immense difficulty in managing hygiene. For health and sanitation reasons such as these, some girls choose to stay home, gathering unexcused absences and missing valuable class time.
  6. Children who come from low-income homes are required to work at school-age. According to the Human Rights Watch, at least 25 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work for a living, and as a result, education oftentimes becomes a burden. Girls typically make money by weaving or tailoring, but some do other small jobs like selling items on the street. 
  7. The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic political movement that started war within the country, are present in over 40 percent of the districts. The conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban pushes families away from their homes and creates millions of displaced Afghan citizens. Girls are permitted to go to school for only a few years or are prohibited from receiving education entirely in areas under Taliban control.
  8. Teachers often find it difficult to provide quality education with a lack of supplies and resources, low salaries and being understaffed. The job pays about $100 per month and many teachers are hired with inadequate levels of training and education.
  9. CBEs stands for “Community-based education” programs and they are good educational opportunities for girls who may miss school. Research has showed promising results that CBEs have lead to an increase in enrollment and test scores for girls according to Human Rights Watch. These programs are solutions to many issues such as traveling long distances to reach school or lack of female teachers amongst others.
  10. Fear of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes can make parents apprehensive about sending their children to school.

Relief Efforts For the Future

These top ten facts about girls’ education in Afghanistan are just the tip of the iceberg; thankfully, there are many relief efforts to combat some of the aforementioned prevalent and widespread issues. Today, UNICEF continues to work with the Ministry of Education at the federal and local levels to work on the lack of female education causes such as poverty, gender bias and conflict.

The organization established CBEs and Accelerated Learning Centers in close proximity to communities, supports policies and programs that benefit the education of young girls on the national level and provides emergency education in times of natural disaster and conflict. With efforts such as these, the future of girls’ education in Afghanistan looks more than promising. 

– Camille Wilson

Photo: Flickr