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.