IRIN and BBC News, November 27, 2006

Almost half of all Afghan children not in school - Oxfam

Girls in particular are losing out, with just one in five girls in primary education and one in 20 going to secondary school.

More than half of Afghanistan's children are not going to school because of a shortage of places and teachers, the aid agency Oxfam says.

RAWA schools
Slideshow of RAWA schools ( )

The report entitled "Free, Quality Education for Every Afghan Child", said that 7 million Afghan children were currently out of school while 5 million children attend school, up from 3.1 million in 2003 and around 1 million in 2001, when the Taliban were in power.

The report is based on nine months of research, including collecting information from the relevant government institutions.

"Educating Afghanistan's children is crucial in improving their lives and in the rebuilding and development of the country. But poverty, crippling fees and huge distances to the nearest schools prevent parents from sending their children to school," said Grace Ommer, head of Oxfam GB in Afghanistan.

Girls in particular are losing out, with just one in five girls in primary education and one in 20 going to secondary school, the report asserted.

The report called on international donors to channel funds through the Afghan Ministry of Education and requested the international community to invest US $563 million to rebuild 7,800 schools across the country.

"Rich countries have provided fewer funds in the past for education compared to their many promises," Basira Mojaddidi, Policy and Advocacy Adviser for Oxfam in Afghanistan, told IRIN.

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.
The 46 year old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.
Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul.
The Independent, Sep. 29, 2006

Afghanistan needs nearly 53,000 trained primary school teachers immediately and a further 64,000 teachers in the next five years. There is also a distinct shortage of female teachers as currently less than three in 10 teachers are female, the new report estimated.

More than half of Afghanistan's schools need major repairs, the majority are without clean drinking water or toilet facilities while 2 million children study in tents or in the open air, the report said.

Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the education minister, praised the Oxfam report. "We are 99 percent in agreement with the outcomes of the report and we have earlier voiced our concerns on the current problems and challenges facing education in Afghanistan," Atmar said.

BBC correspondent says that pay for teachers is so low at about $50 a month at best that well-qualified staff prefer other work if they can get it.

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