Afghanistan

Community-based schools bring hope to Afghanistan’s remote settlements

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Jalalabad/2007
With the encouragement of her father, Hakima, 9, attends a UNICEF-supported, community-based school in Afghanistan.

By Sabine Dolan

The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child will be the theme of the 51st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 26 February to 9 March 2007. Here is one in a series of related stories.

NEW YORK, USA, 23 February 2007 – Hakima, 9, only recently came to know about her country and its people.

She was born at the Bajawur Refugee Camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, but nearly two years ago her family had to repatriate to the village of Wuch Tangee in Afghanistan’s Beshood District.

Hakima was lucky, though. Her father encouraged her to attend a community-based school in their village.

Indeed, she feels that she is the luckiest of the 10 siblings in her family – particularly since her two elder sisters are too shy to attend school due to their older age. She is proud to have learned how to make words out of letters and count all the way to 100. She smiles as she writes on the blackboard to the sound of enthusiastic applause from her classmates.

Ogata Initiative supports education

Hakima enjoys school and doesn’t have to worry about the daily chores of collecting water and firewood. When she grows up, she wants to become a teacher.

Her success has been made possible by the Ogata Initiative, a regional comprehensive development assistance programme established by the Government of Japan and supported by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education and UNICEF.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Jalalabad/2007
Afghan communities are increasingly investing in the education of both girls and boys despite hardships.

The initiative provided education opportunities to nearly 3,000 children in 2006 alone through support for 50 community-based schools – including teacher training and salaries, provision of learning materials and, in a few cases, classroom construction. Working with local communities, the Afghan education authorities have been able to reach out to scattered settlements on behalf of girls like Hakima who would otherwise never have been encouraged or even had the choice to go to school.

“According to the Ministry of Education’s regulations, primary schools should be located no more than 3 km from a village,” explains UNICEF External Relations Officer Roshan Khadivi. “However, there are still many areas that do not have schools within [that] radius – and even this specific distance has been identified as too long for a child of primary school age to commute, especially for girls.

“If parents do not think that their children will be safe in or en route to school, they will keep their children at home,” adds Ms. Khadivi.

Encouraging signs

The steady rise in the number of community-based schools and the increase in attendance, particularly among girls, are encouraging. Communities are increasingly investing in the education of girls and boys despite hardships and an element of conservatism fuelled by an insurgency movement in Afghanistan.

Prospects for the future are bright if girls like Hakima are able to fulfil their ambitions and their parents can provide the protective environment they need.

“The challenge is how to reach those children, especially girls, who are still not in school and ensure that children enrolled in classes do not begin to drop out,” says Ms. Khadavi. “The efforts we are making to improve the curriculum and quality of teaching – and our work with others on the ‘healthy schools’ initiative that will hopefully make the physical environment of schools more child-friendly – will do much to maintain and improve attendance rates.”


 

 

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