By Farhad Naibkhel-KBAUL: The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday revealed that an estimated 3.7 million children – including 60 percent girls– are out of school in Afghanistan, due to ongoing conflict, poverty and discrimination, making an estimated half of children deprived of education.
Nearly half of children aged between 7 and 17 years old – 3.7 million – in Afghanistan are missing out on school, according to the Out of School Children: Afghanistan Country Studyreleased today.
The ongoing conflict and worsening security situation across the country – combined with deeply engrained poverty and discrimination against girls – have pushed the rate of out-of-school children up for the first time since 2002 levels, said Adele Khodr, UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative
She said that girls account for 60 per cent of the out-of-school population, putting them at a particular disadvantage, and compounding gender-based discrimination. In the worse-affected provinces – including Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan – up to 85 per cent of girls are not going to school.
“Business as usual is not an option for Afghanistan if we are to fulfil the right to education for every child,” She added.
She said that when children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment.
The study notes that displacement and child marriage also significantly affect a child’s chances of going to school. While a shortage of female teachers, poor school facilities and insecurity affecting the delivery of education in conflict affected areas are also factors driving children – particularly girls – away from the classroom.
While the numbers are concerning, there is also progress and hope. The study notes that school dropout rates are low, 85 per cent of boys and girls who start primary school go on to complete the last grade, while 94 per cent of boys, and 90 per cent of girls who start lower secondary also complete the grades. The challenge is to get children to start school in the first place.
“We commend the Government of Afghanistan for prioritizing and declaring the year 2018 as the year of education,” said Khodr. ”Now is the time for a renewed commitment to provide girls and boys with the relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society,” Khodr added.
To overcome this challenge, early learning opportunities, community-based education, including accelerated learning programmers, gives families more control over education by organizing classes in community buildings and in some cases inside homes. This is especially critical for girls, as it reduces insecurity on the way to school, such as harassment and conflict related incidents.
The ‘Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey, 2016-17’, released in May this year, also highlights significant improvements in adult and youth literacy rates over the past two decades. The literacy rate for youth (aged 15-24 years) has risen from 31 per cent in 2005 to 54 per cent in 2017.
“Getting girls and boys into school is so much more than sitting in class,” said Khodr. “It’s about providing routine and stability in life, which is a wise investment given the insecurity across parts of the country,” she added.
The report calls for continued government and civil society commitment and action to address the out-of-school children, especially girls, while recognizing that strong national data institutions and capacity take time and investment to develop. In addition to protecting children and schools from harm, the report identifies four principles to underpin this work, targeting provinces with disproportionately high rates of out of school girls, including working with religious leaders and other groups to advocate for increased education, especially for girls; ensuring girls’ learning facilities meet basic security and health standards, including toilets, hand washing facilities and safe drinking water; recruiting and building the capacity of female teachers; and addressing child marriage.
Head of Press Department of Ministry of Education, Kabir Haqmal while welcoming the release of report by UNICEF said that” MoE will exert utmost efforts to enroll children and use all different ways to make literate all children particularly 3.7 million children who are out of school.”
He said that education is the most important tools in fighting to fight poverty and other social challenges, thus the MoE will do its best to educate the children.
He said that 3.7 million talented children including 2.2 million girls out of school means we have faraway a high talented figure far from school, so if we not hold step for solution then it mean we lost 3.7 million talents particularly with a high percentage of girls.
Besides constructing new schools in different part of the country, MoE is struggling to establish local classes in order to end to the challenges of children not going schools.