Providing quality education for all

UNICEF Afghanistan


Afghanistan’s education system has been devastated by more than three decades of sustained conflict. For many of the country’s children, completing primary school remains a distant dream – especially in rural areas and for girls – despite recent progress in raising enrolment.

In the poorest and remote areas of the country, enrolment levels vary extensively and girls still lack equal access.

An estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan – 60% of them are girls.

Low girl enrolment can be explained in part by a lack of female teachers, especially in rural schools. Only 16 per cent of Afghanistan’s schools are girls-only, and many of them lack proper sanitation facilities, which further hinders attendance. Certain sociocultural factors and traditional beliefs also undermine girls’ education. Girls continue to marry very young – 17 per cent before their 15th birthday.

In some parts of the country, a shortage of schools and insufficient transportation are the main obstacles to education – a long walk to school means fewer children go. Geographical barriers, especially in mountainous areas, also make it hard for children to reach the classroom. Once children do make it, they often receive a lower quality of education because only 48 per cent of their teachers have the minimum academic qualifications (equivalent to an Associate Degree).

The socio-political and humanitarian crises that Afghanistan faces critically affect a fragile education system. Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and landslides exacerbate the situation for all children. These factors raise parental concerns about safety and can prevent them from sending their children to school.

Structural problems in the system and inefficient resource management also mean it’s not easy to make improvements.

UNICEF Afghanistan/2016/Sheida
Khadija (right), aged 13, reads with her teacher at an Accelerated Learning Centre in Bamyan province in the Central Highlands of Afghanistan. Community-based schools offer students the chance to complete primary grades 1-3 in their own communities, while Accelerated Learning Centres (ALCs) help children up to the age of 15 who have missed out on a primary education.


Providing quality education for the most vulnerable

A strong education system is key to getting more children in school, keeping them there, and helping them to become healthy and responsible citizens. Working at the national, provincial, community levels in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other partners, our support focuses on the most vulnerable people in disadvantaged areas, particularly girls, to combat the lack of learning caused by poverty, discrimination and conflict.

A girl’s education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity.

UNICEF Afghanistan/2017/Froutan
A young girl stands in front of a tent that serves as a community-based school in the Gamberi settlement for returnees in Laghman province, eastern Afghanistan. The settlement is home to over one thousand displaced families who returned from Pakistan. Uprooted families who return to Afghanistan after living as refugees for decades often end up joining the ranks of the internally displaced, as conflict and lost community networks prevent them from returning to a clear place of origin.

More children in school
Access to education is a right for every child. UNICEF has worked with the government and partners for decades to increase the number of children going to school. 

UNICEF focuses on the enrolment and retention of the most vulnerable children, specifically those who are out of school, and girls. We support the formal school system and the government’s Community-Based Education programme, establishing Community-Based Schools and Accelerated Learning Centres within a three-kilometre range of each child’s community. We help identify alternative pathways to learning and increase education opportunities for the hardest-to-reach.

Improving quality education
UNICEF works with the Ministry of Education and other partners to improve the quality of education, build better education systems, and support environments that are conducive to learning and development.

The government of Afghanistan has adopted the Child-Friendly Schools approach, which focuses on inclusiveness, child-centred learning and a safe, healthy, and protective learning environment with active community participation. UNICEF also helps the Ministry of Education in its efforts to develop a National Assessment Framework for the primary education system, linked to a national qualification framework.

Improving institutional capacity
UNICEF advocates with the highest levels of Government and provides continuous technical and financial support to the Ministry Education to improve management practices and coordination for partnership at all levels.

At the national level, UNICEF supports the development and roll-out of new policies, strategies, and programmes with a special focus on out-of-school children, girls’ education, and early childhood development. At the community level, UNICEF works closely with School Management Shuras (consultative councils), parents, community members, decision-makers, and children themselves to improve community school management.

Emergency preparedness and response
UNICEF provides emergency education to ensure children continue going to school during disasters and conflicts. UNICEF and Save the Children co-lead the Education in Emergencies Working Group which supports the Ministry of Education in its disaster response. UNICEF focuses on promoting social cohesion and a culture of peace in local communities, especially in regions where fear and violence persist.

UNICEF Afghanistan/2016/Froutan
Brothers Mirwais (left), 11, and Sakhidad, 14, attend a community-based classroom on the outskirts of the city of Herat in western Afghanistan. They are forced to work digging sand and stones at a nearby quarry to support their family, but this type of decentralized community-based education has enabled them to access education. Most of the students at these schools have been internally displaced by fighting in their homes in neighbouring districts.