By Abdul Aziz Froutan
KABUL, Afghanistan, 5 July 2011 – New classrooms, chairs and desks mean better education at Shirino High School, one of the schools renovated and refurbished with funds from the Government of Japan as part of its ‘1,000 Classrooms’ initiative.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Ash Sweeting reports on the '1000 Classrooms' initiative, funded by the Government of Japan, to improve education in Kabul, Afghanistan. Watch in RealPlayer|
“There were lots of problems last year, our students were sitting outside in the sun and they didn’t have a classroom,” recalls Shirino High School Headmistress Qamar Hadi. “There were no chairs or tables for the students.”
Kabul’s rapidly growing population has led to a severe shortage of classrooms and overcrowding in schools. In 2010, most schools in the city were teaching students in three shifts with up to 60 students per class.
|© UNICEF video|
|Students at Shirino High School in Kabul, Afghanistan. The school has received new classrooms, chairs and desk thanks to funding from the Government of Japan.|
Safety and girls’ education
To address these problems, the Afghan Ministry of Education, with UNICEF support and $24 million from the Government of Japan, has built over 1,000 new classrooms in 48 schools across Kabul.
The project is focusing especially on safety and girls’ education. More than 86,000 students in the Afghan capital are benefiting from the upgrades to their schools this year.
At Afshar High School in south Kabul, new classrooms have replaced the crumbling old buildings. “It’s not safe and the life of students could be in danger in this building especially if there is an earthquake. There could be a lot of problems,” says Deputy Principal of Afshar High School Timur Shah.
|© UNICEF video|
|A female student with Qamar Hadi, Headmistress of Shirino High School in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghan Ministry of Education, with UNICEF support and $24 million from the Government of Japan, has built over 1,000 new classrooms across 48 schools in Kabul.|
With new classrooms, the number of children enrolled in school has increased and retention rates have improved.
“In the new classrooms, we are more comfortable than in the old ones,” says Akil, 14. “Now we have a chair for each student. Before, there was one chair for three students and it was very tiring. This new building is very good for us.”
But the actual classrooms are just part of the project. Other improvements to create a safe, healthy and hygienic learning environment include boundary walls, recreation areas, water points and separate latrines for boys and girls. Providing a safe, attractive and sanitary environment is important for improving the enrolment and retention of girls, as studies and experience in numerous countries have shown.
|© UNICEF video|
|A female student at Shirino High School in Kabul, Afghanistan. The newly-built classrooms are part of the '1000 classrooms' initiative funded by the Government of Japan.|
Vital step for development
Across Kabul, the quality of education is also being improved. The principles of child-centred learning have been taught to more than 3,000 teachers in workshops conducted by UNICEF. The workshops give teachers the skills needed to ensure that lessons focus on each child’s ability, stimulate his or her interest and participation in classroom activities, and deal with the child’s problems.
In addition, UNICEF runs workshops for student representatives and community committees to encourage their involvement in managing local schools. The results of school improvements are already starting to be seen.
Better education is a vital step for development progress in Afghanistan. Following the success of this project, UNICEF plans to introduce the child-friendly schools package to 500 other schools across Afghanistan during this school year, so that thousands more Afghan children can benefit from an improved education.
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