Basic education and gender equality


Basic education and gender equality

© UNICEF/Afghanistan/2013/Rajat Madhok
A student enjoying new facilities in a newly constructed classroom in Kabul. Funded by the Japanese government and in partnership with the ministry of Education, UNICEF has constructed 1000 new classrooms that have benefited more than 300,000 students.


Under the Taliban, violence and intimidation were used to prevent girls and women from attending school. After the regime’s fall in 2001, UNICEF became the Government’s leading partner in the reconstruction of the education sector, a relationship that continues today. 

On 24 March 2002, at the start of the Afghan New Year and only three months after the interim government was created, three million Afghan children (one third of them girls) gained access to 3,000 schools across Afghanistan with the support of UNICEF led Back-to-School-Campaign. Many of these children were entering a formal classroom for the first time in six years. 

Since then, education in Afghanistan has witnessed tremendous gains. More than 8.3 million children are in school in Afghanistan today and nearly 40 per cent of them are girls.

UNICEF provides technical and financial support to the Ministry of Education (MoE) in the formation of policy and legislation, capacity development of teachers and administrators, building an information management system, developing new curriculum, promoting girls’ enrolment and conducting outreach to out-of-school and marginalised children. UNICEF’s partnership with the Ministry of Education, community and school shuras (councils) and village leaders, supports school construction and other school improvement programmes. 

There are four key components under the education programme.

Access and Retention
UNICEF has been supporting the establishment of Community Based Schools (CBS), Accelerated Learning Centres (ALC) and the construction of new classrooms to reach out-of-school children, especially girls and children from marginalised communities.

Quality Improvement 
Country-wide initiatives ensure that once children are in school, they receive education of enhanced quality. UNICEF’s global Child Friendly School (CFS) strategy has been adopted by the Ministry of Education and includes a holistic approach of inclusiveness, child-centered learning and provision of a safe, healthy, and protective environment.

Female Literacy
Female literacy programmes supported by UNICEF provide women between the ages of 15-24 with basic reading, writing and numeracy skills, as well as vital information on health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation that can benefit their well-being and that of their children and families.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE)
In 2011, UNICEF played a leading role in assisting the MoE in applying for the Global Partnership for Education Development fund and Afghanistan was approved by the GPE board. This means Afghanistan is one of 47 countries that have access to GPE development funds of USD 55.7 million meant to improve access to quality basic education over a 3 year period. UNICEF serves as Supervising Entity to Afghanistan’s partnership with the GPE, overseeing both programme implementation and fiduciary components.

UNICEF is committed to work closely with the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, in delivering quality education and learning for those children who are out of school. This high level meeting in NY on 25 September 2013 was a reaffirmation of the commitment to make education for all a reality for those invisible and most disadvantaged children.

Current situation and key issues: Remarkable progress has been made in education in Afghanistan in terms of students’ enrolment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Students’ enrolment has increased tremendously for both boys and girls from just 900,000 in 2001 to around 8.3 million in 2011 of which 39 per cent are females (EMIS, 2012) with joint efforts of partners including UNICEF. However, the progress is viewed as “fragile, limited in reach, depth and uncertainty of sustainability” (UNICEF Education SitAn, 2013). The status of boys and girls in education in Afghanistan continues to be compromised in terms of access, quality and gender equality. Only 50 per cent of eligible children are enrolled in schools while approximately 3 million children, especially children in remote, mountainous and insecure areas remain out of school. This is also exacerbated by the estimated 15 per cent of students who remain on the books for up to 3 years, but are actually out of school as “permanent absentees”. The status of girls in education is considerably lower than boys with a Gender Parity Index (GPI) of 0.74.

The shortage of schools and insufficient infrastructure resulting in long walking distances to schools combined with the general insecurity is one of the biggest causes for low enrolment. There are currently about 14,000 schools of which only 15 per cent are for girls and 50 per cent are without usable buildings, safe water and sanitation facilities. Almost all schools operate on multiple shifts based on reduced instructional schedule which negatively impacts on quality. It is estimated that it will take 13 years at the current rate of school construction of 500 per year for the Government to meet demand. The lack of female teachers, especially in the rural schools is one of the main reasons for the low enrollment of girls. Out of 172,000 teachers, only 31 per cent are females and only very few of these are in rural schools. In addition, socio-cultural factors that undermine girls’ education, inadequate as well as separate sanitation facilities for girls, insecurity and the absence of community based schools near communities are some of the barriers to girls’ enrollment.

Key achievements:

Despite the challenging programming environment, Attendance net enrolment ratio for boys and girls has increased from 52 per cent in 2007/08 to 55 per cent in 2010/11, the girls’ primary enrolment increased from 1,899,000 in 2009 to 2,097,000 in 2011(EMIS 2012) but the gender parity index slightly increased from 0.70 in 2007/08 to 0.74 in 2010/11, with joint efforts of partners including UNICEF (MICS 2010 and MICS 2012). Over 219,170 children were enrolled through the community based schools of which, 55 per cent children were enrolled with UNICEF support.



© UNICEF Afghanistan



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