The once robust and well-respected
education system in Afghanistan has fallen into a state of neglect.
War has destroyed more than 70 percent of the schools and there
are not enough teachers or necessities such as textbooks and notebooks.
A Under the repressive regime of the Taliban, the strict
Islamic political and religious faction that ruled from 1996 till
2001, girls were not educated,
boys' education focused mostly on religion and women were forbidden
to work outside the home.
The results of these restrictions have left the education system
in a shambles. UNICEF, the United Nations organization charged
with protecting the rights of children, reports that more than
85 percent of the population has never been to school and that
many will never receive a proper education.
According to Afghanistan's Minister of Education the task of
rebuilding is urgent.
"Demand for education is exploding - at primary, secondary
and tertiary levels. We cannot risk disappointing or leaving these
children of the war generation out of the system. They're already
vulnerable and traumatized," said Mohammad Younus Qanooni,
the Minister of Education of the Transitional Islamic State of
"Yet from their ranks will come tomorrow's leaders,"
Education since the fall of the Taliban
Since Afghan forces, aided by a massive U.S. bombing
campaign, drove the Taliban from power in December 2001, an estimated
3 million children have enrolled in some form of education, mostly
at the primary level. On average girls make up 30 percent of school-attending
children, but in the southern and eastern parts of the country
the number of girls attending school is far lower and remains
at rates considered unacceptable to the Ministry of Education.
According to Afghan education authorities, more than 1.5 million
school-age children will not be able to attend classes this year
there are not enough schools or teachers. The schools that do
exist often lack electricity, proper sanitation or drinking water.
Outdoor classrooms work only as long as the weather remains warm
and will close in the winter. Some land surrounding schools has
been laced with land mines.
Even in the capital of Kabul, schools have few of items considered
commonplace in American schools.
"We don't have pencils, we don't have notebooks and we sit
on the floor," Abdul Samad, a student in Kabul, told Radio
Efforts to rebuild the education system
To solve these problems the Ministry of Education is
working with international organizations like the United Nations,
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and private
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Help the Afghan
Children. Together, the groups are trying to build or renovate
schools, provide books and other supplies and dramatically increase
the number of qualified teachers, especially women, through training
The aim is to provide education for all school-age children and
reclaim the "lost generation" of students who were denied
education during the war
and Taliban rule.
"Education is the bedrock of any society. In Afghanistan,
the education of girls and women is one of the single most imperative
investments the country can make," said UNICEF Executive
Director Carol Bellamy.
The government and groups are also working to make teaching a
more appealing profession. Although generally a well-respected
profession, teaching remains a low paying one.
"A senior teacher gets about 1,800 to 2,000 Afghanis a month,
which is far below all standards. For this money, you cannot even
buy enough food," Wahid Hadafmand, a teacher in Kabul, told
Radio Free Europe. "I am not exaggerating. Many teachers,
especially in Kabul and other cities, don't have a place to live.
They cannot afford to rent a property."
The government is attempting to solve this problem by giving
teachers special incentives such as reduced priced food and free
medical services in state-run institutions.
Annie Schleicher, Online NewsHour Extra