The education system in Afghanistan has faced many obstacles as a result of conflicts and changes in the country’s legal structure. In 2001, only 1 million children attended school in Afghanistan. However, since the Taliban ceased to rule in 2001, according to UNESCO, by 2018, around 10 million children attended school. Despite this improvement, UNICEF statistics indicate that Afghanistan’s out-of-school population equaled 3.7 million children, with girls accounting for 60% of this group. The state of education in Afghanistan has significantly deteriorated since the Taliban takeover in 2021.
6 Facts About the State of Education in Afghanistan
- The impact of the Taliban takeover. The takeover of the Taliban in 2021 has reversed much of the country’s progress in regard to education. Since March 23, 2022, the Taliban has banned 1.1 million girls from attending high school. The rule of the Taliban has also affected tertiary education for females — Afghanistan’s tertiary institutions note a 60% reduction in enrollment.
- Afghanistan’s literacy rates. The World Bank places Afghanistan’s adult literacy rate (percentage of people aged 15 and above who can read and write) at about 37% in 2021, which marks a 6% increase from 2011. However, urban areas account for a majority of this percentage as literacy rates in rural Afghanistan are still considerably low.
- Teachers in Afghanistan. In 2021, Afghanistan had nearly 220,000 teachers, a number that increased significantly from 27,000 in 2003. However, only 22% of these teachers meet the basic minimum qualifications of grade 14. There is also gender disparity as only 28% of teachers are female.
- GDP expenditure on education. In total, in 2020, the Afghan government allocated almost 3% of its GDP to education, according to the World Bank.
- Lower secondary school enrollment rates. In 2019, according to the World Bank, gross primary school enrollment rates in Afghanistan stood at 107%, but secondary school enrollment rates stood at 55%.
- The impact of poverty. Almost 50% of families lived below the poverty line in Afghanistan in 2020. Due to conditions of poverty, many children are forced into working at a young age to provide income instead of attending school.
Efforts to Improve Education in Afghanistan
Before the takeover, Afghanistan had significantly progressed in the realm of education. Though gender discrimination continued to impact girls’ education, girls’ school attendance rates did rise — the number of Afghan girls attending primary school rose from nearly zero in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018.
A six-member project called Step Towards Afghan Girls’ Education Success (STAGES) prioritizes the education of boys and girls in Afghanistan through “community-based education classes in 1,078 communities across 16 provinces.” The project, spanning 6.5 years, began in April 2017 and will run until September 2023. Part one of the project reached completion in June 2021.
By this date, the project had aided the education of almost 25,000 disadvantaged girls in Afghanistan. Part one of the project also helped “1,995 young women to become teachers through a teaching apprenticeship [program] and grants to attend Teacher Training Colleges,” the Girls’ Education Challenge website says. Part two of the project looks to allow community-based education for an additional 5,145 marginalized Afghan girls to finish lower primary education.
By supporting projects like STAGES and mobilizing U.K. and U.S. advocates, the state of education in Afghanistan can improve.
– Safa Ali