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
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
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
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.
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’
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