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UNICEF and Japan support '1,000 Classrooms Project' in Afghan capital

By Farida Ayari

KABUL, Afghanistan, 17 December 2010 – Girls and boys were thrilled with the recent inauguration of a new high school in the Afghan capital, built as part of a major project in which the government will construct over 1,000 new classrooms in 58 schools in and around Kabul. The project is supported by UNICEF and the Government of Japan.

VIDEO: December 2010 - UNICEF’s Ash Sweeting reports on the opening of a new high school as part of an initiative to build 1,000 classrooms in and around the Afghan capital.  Watch in RealPlayer


The newly opened school, Mohamed Mussa Shafiq High School in eastern Kabul, is situated in a new suburb named after Ahmad Shah Durrani, the first king and founder of modern Afghanistan. This neighbourhood’s development on the outskirts of the capital bears witness to the exponential growth of the city’s population in recent years.

The ‘1,000 Classrooms Project’ addresses the severe scarcity of teaching and learning spaces in Kabul. It is especially focused on increasing educational opportunities for girls. Upon completion of the project, students will benefit from access to safe, healthy and hygienic learning environments. In addition, over 3,000 teachers will have been trained in child-centred, participatory teaching techniques.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010
From right: His Excellency Shigeyuki Hiroki, Ambassador of Japan, Afghan Minister of Education Dr. Farooq Wardak and UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Peter Crowley at the opening of Mohammad Mussa Shafiq school in eastern Kabul.

‘More time to study’

Najia Yusufi, a female physical education teacher, is looking forward to the sports facilities that will be installed in the vast courtyard at Mussa Shafiq High School.

“We can’t practice sport with one ball for 50 students,” she said. “With more sports facilities we will train better, and our students will improve and be able to participate in tournaments.”

Before the construction of the school, students were attending classes under tents in three shifts. “Each shift would be three and a half hours long,” recalls Maihan Zoly, captain of the basketball team. “With the new building, we will have much more time to study”.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010
Three students perform a drama at the opening of the Mohammad Mussa Shafiq school in eastern Kabul, Afghanistan.

On a visit to the school, Minister of Education Dr. Farooq Wardaq said he was struck by the contrast with his own childhood. “When I was in primary school, I didn’t have the luxury of a desk and a chair in a nice classroom like this,” he said. “Sometimes I studied under a tree, and sometimes under a tent.”

Reducing inequities in education

Accompanying Mr. Wardaq on the visit were His Excellency Shigeyuki Hiroki, Ambassador of Japan, and UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Peter Crowley.

Mr. Crowley noted that the classroom-construction project “is being implemented in accordance with UNICEF’s child-friendly school approach, which aims to improve both the quality of learning inside the classroom as well as physical facilities, so that children can study in an environment that helps them to realize their full potential.”

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010
Afghan Minister of Education Dr. Farooq Wardak with some of the students at the opening of Mohammad Mussa Shafiq school in eastern Kabul.

Added Ambassador Hiroki, speaking in Dari (one of the country’s official languages): “The future of Afghanistan lies on investments in education. Provision of educational facilities and quality education are key needs for development and progress.”

The UNICEF country programme in Afghanistan focuses on reducing inequities in education for girls, hard-to-reach children and minorities. The ‘1,000 Classrooms Project’ is one of the key initiatives through which UNICEF seeks to advance this equity agenda.



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