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Girls' education in Afghanistan

Children in the extreme north-eastern province of Badakhshan in Afghanistan derive some benefit from their remoteness from the capital, Kabul. The province has traditionally been more committed to education than most other areas of Afghanistan, despite its poverty and susceptibility to earthquake damage.

© UNICEF/00-0910/Lemoyne

Sitting on the floor of a classroom in Faizabad, north-eastern Afghanistan, girls write in their notebooks

International agencies play a part in helping the under-resourced local education department – and promoting the education of girls. The provision of educational materials has been a key area of support. Another has been the training of local teachers. In 2000, the World Food Programme, in cooperation with UNICEF and the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee, started a food-for-education programme in five pilot districts giving teachers and students who attend school regularly a monthly ration of wheat and giving girls an extra ration of edible oil.

Programmes like these are having a measurable impact. There were 45,000 children enrolled in school in 1993, 19 per cent were girls. The latest official statistics show there are now 64,000 children in school, one third are girls. In addition 29 per cent of the teachers in the province are women, compared with 15 per cent in 1993.

These are, of course, dismal figures in international terms and compared with what is expected by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF will go on working to give every child in the province, male or female, the educational opportunity that is their right.

But in Badakshan, amid bleak conditions, the educational improvements are encouraging. If a girls' education programme can make a difference here, it can make a difference anywhere.

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