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The Killid Group, May 9, 2015

Long way from education for all

"Lack of security is the main challenge for families who want to send their children to school"

By Kreshma Fakhri

Social restrictions, insecurity and a severe shortage of female teachers continue to pose a challenge. The Ministry of Education (MoE) says 15 percent of female students drop out of school. The UN children's agency UNICEF says 3 million Afghan children have never been inside a school; 60 percent are girls. At least 500 schools are closed across the country because of security threats.

For Sameaa Reka, a teacher at Rukhshana school in Kabul, "Lack of security is the main challenge for families who want to send their children to school." This is so also for Baheer Wyar, national adviser on education for Save the Children, an international charity. "Insecurity has a direct effect on education of children specifically girls'. It is a source of concern for parents."

Kabir Haqmal, head of the publication department in the MoE, says 500 schools are shut, and there are no female teachers in 200 districts. Many teachers have been killed by anti-government forces including the Taleban which was against female education.

Too poor to school

According to Rafiaullah Bedar, the spokesperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), "economic poverty" is a major stumbling block to education, particularly of girls. "When there are two children going to school, the girl is the first one to be pulled out if the family has money problems," he says. "Even here in Kabul, there are families that cannot send their children to school and put them to work on the road (as street sellers)," says Haqmal of the MoE.

Conditions of schools in Afghanistan is very bad
he UN children's agency UNICEF says 3 million Afghan children have never been inside a school; 60 percent are girls. (Photo: RFE/RL)

Aziz Ferotan, a spokesperson for UNICEF, points to research that shows, "Families don't support female education." It is apparent also to Shagufa who is in class 12 at the Nasaji Girls' High School in Kapisa province. "Families are indifferent to girls' education because of low awareness about children's right to education, and their own poor education levels."

Abdul Khaleq Hakjo, a Kunduz resident, believes old customs have not been challenged in the province. Laila, a teacher at Bibi Mahro Girls' High School in Kabul says this is a problem both in the provinces and the Afghan capital. "Families believe money should be spent only on boys since they stay in the family," she says.

The MoE's Haqmal, however, thinks the situation has improved because of the efforts of the government and non-governmental organisations over the last 13 years. "There has been some changing of views," he feels.

Safiaullah Amarkhil, the national consultant for Save the Children, advises a "safe environment" for girls to study could challenge old beliefs. "If there are equal facilities for children and the families are sure that their daughters can go to school in a safe environment of professional and experienced teachers, the old-fashioned viewpoint can be easily changed."

According to Amarkhil, most schools don't even have boundary walls, buildings or qualified teachers. UNICEF's Aziz Ferotan thinks if there was a school in every village, it would be a big boost for female education.

Under-age marriages are another big problem for girls' education, says Baheer Wyar of Save the Children. According to figures from 2014, which are the most recent, 50 percent of girls were married before the legal age of 16 years.

Deep bias

Safiaullah Amarkhil, the national consultant for Save the Children, advises a "safe environment" for girls to study could challenge old beliefs. "If there are equal facilities for children and the families are sure that their daughters can go to school in a safe environment of professional and experienced teachers, the old-fashioned viewpoint can be easily changed."
According to Amarkhil, most schools don't even have boundary walls, buildings or qualified teachers. UNICEF's Aziz Ferotan thinks if there was a school in every village, it would be a big boost for female education.
The Killid Group, May 9, 2015

Afghanistan is caught in a cycle. Few girls go to school. Fewer women become teachers. "How can a female teacher be found in this situation?" asks Haqmal, head of the MoE's publication department. "More than 200 districts neither have a school for girls nor female teachers in schools."

Zakia is the principal of Nasaji Girls' High School in Kapisa. "Students study to class nine and then their families prevent them saying, 'Now you are grown up, you don't need to study.' This problem is everywhere when girls get to middle or high school."

Rafiaullah, a resident of Kunduz, agrees. "This discrimination is widespread in Kunduz. There are families who won't let their daughters go to school when they turn 15 or 16 years old. They see their continuation with their studies as a shame (on the family's honour). It is a big cruelty on daughters and against society," he says. Rafiaullah dreams of change.

The bias has led to a big gap between female enrolment in school and their graduation. According to Baheer Wyar, "Many girls start school but few graduate. Figures show only 1 percent of girls who enroll get to graduate."

He further says there are provinces such as Nuristan where no girl graduates. MoE, meanwhile, insists the percentage of female school dropouts has gone down from 35 percent in earlier years to 15 percent now.

Religious sanction

Lutfullah Haqparast, a religious scholar, thinks religion could be used to challenge the bias against female education. "Families that are aware of the wisdom in Islam would never be against education for their daughters." He believes religious authorities should remove the restrictions around education for girls and raise awareness from the pulpit and through the media.

Category: Children, Education - Views: 3823