Frontline World

Afghanistan - A House for Haji Baba, Ocotber 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "A House for Haji Baba"

Behind the Lens

Danger, Determination and Destiny

Politics, Security, Health, Education

Government, Population, Economy

Background, Reconstruction Efforts, Warlordism




Invisible Women
Politics: Struggling to Speak Security: Fear and Violence Health: A Risky Place to Be Female Education: Learning for Change

Education: Learning for Change

Since the fall of the Taliban, girls have made up a third of the 3 million children who flocked to schools when they reopened. Teachers who held secret classes when girls' education was outlawed have returned to public schools. UNICEF estimates that about a third of Afghan teachers are women. For the first time in five years, female students and faculty are back at the country's universities.

Photo courtesy Eve Lyman
But educating girls in Afghanistan is no easy task. The country lacks school supplies, qualified teachers and adequate school facilities. Only 21 percent of Afghan women can read. And conservative attitudes, particularly in rural areas, keep girls out of school. According to Nadya, the only female teacher in the remote district of southeastern Afghanistan where she lives and works, "Some families still say if their daughters study higher classes they will forget their cultural values." Over the past year, more than a dozen girls' schools in Afghanistan have been bombed, vandalized or set on fire, often after the appearance of anonymous leaflets that warn parents to keep their daughters home. A survey of women in Kandahar by Afghans for Civil Society found that despite a strong desire for their children to receive an education, some parents worry that sending their daughters to school every day would endanger their family's reputation in the community.

A group of female students at Kabul University told Human Rights Watch, "First, we wish the girls who live in the provinces would have schools - [and] not just grades one through five ... . Second, we wish that they would collect all the guns from the gunmen, so girls can go out and go to school. Third, we wish they would talk with families -- girls are interested, but some families won't let them go out." Many women see education as the best hope for solving the challenges that continue to face Afghan women.


Afghans for Civil Society's survey of women's conditions in Kandahar (Adobe Acrobat file)

U.N. interview of Nadya, a rural teacher, about girls' education

Human Rights Watch report on widespread abuses in southeast Afghanistan

• POLITICS: Struggling to Speak
• SECURITY: Fear and Violence
• HEALTH: A Risky Place to Be Female
• EDUCATION: Learning for Change

back to top