Massive return to classrooms indicated by latest results of nationwide survey
Thursday, 11 July 2002 -- Ongoing results received from the nationwide assessment of learning spaces, being jointly conducted by the Afghanistan Ministry of Education and UNICEF, is indicating that there has been a massive return of children - both boys and girls - to schools around the country.
Preliminary data has now been collated from 20 provinces (2/3rds of the whole country), covering some 2,744 schools.
Nearly 1.25 million children are now attending school in these 20 provinces.1.1 million children are enrolled in Grades 1-6 - original predictions before the start of the new school term in March anticipated a total national enrolment in these Grades of 1.7 million children. If the survey continues to show a similar trend from the rest of the country, UNICEF believes that the final number of children in the classroom will exceed all expectations. Indications are that enrolment will be 60% higher than before March, with the number of girls coming to school over 90% higher.
The latest information shows that 30% of pupils now attending school are girls, and the ratio between girls and boys is relatively similar across the country. Even in Kandahar, where girls' enrolment prior to the Taliban era was negligible, girls now make up 10% of the student population.
The survey also gives an insight to the number of teachers. Across the 20 provinces, over 27,000 teachers are involved in education - 36% are women. In Kabul city, the number of women teachers exceeds men by more than 3,000.
While these figures provide a positive message about education in Afghanistan, several problems remain. Teachers are reporting more children seeking to enrol every day; some schools around Kabul, for example, see up to 10 new children a day registering for lessons, mostly in Grade 1 - a result of ongoing return of refugees from Pakistan. There is a continued need for more books, stationery supplies and investment in teacher training and support. Physical infrastructure remains a concern - only 22% of schools assessed so far have adequate sanitation for pupils, and many children are still being taught in temporary tented classrooms.
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education remain committed to meeting these needs; UNICEF is appealing for an additional US$10 million on top of its original appeal for US$ 47 million for education, to ensure that all children and teachers returning to school in coming months are properly equipped.
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