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Millions of Afghan children head back to school

New York, 21 March 2007 – More than six million children in Afghanistan are heading back to school this week, as UNICEF and partners are distributing essential school supplies and teaching materials around the country to meet their needs.

“To have 6,080,260 children in school in a few days’ time is something that is very historic for this country and very encouraging for the education system and Afghanistan’s future,” said UNICEF Afghanistan Chief of Education David McLoughlin.

Education in Afghanistan has witnessed a tremendous boost over the past few years. In 2002 alone, three million Afghan children returned to school after years of war. To help out-of-school children in far out regions, UNICEF has, over the past four years, established 5,000 community-based schools which have allowed more than 200,000 boys and girls to have access to education.

But despite achievements, challenges persist. More focus needs to be placed on teacher training to guarantee quality education for the increasing number of students, and the absence of female teachers is affecting retention rates – particularly for girls.

To address this situation, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education and other partners to provide teaching material to over 100,000 teachers and to train teachers, including new female ones, in new teaching methodologies. 

Additional plans for 2007 include enrolling an additional 400,000 girls in basic education, providing learning materials to 5.4 million children in grades one to nine, and building new community schools. 

“It is incredible to see during the past five years that the people of Afghanistan have reaffirmed their commitment to their children’s and Afghanistan’s future by sending their children to school in unprecedented numbers that have never been seen before,” McLoughlin noted.

About UNICEF :

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Najwa Mekki, UNICEF Media New York, +1-212-326-7162, nmekki@unicef.org

Roshan Khadivi, UNICEF Afghanistan, +93-790-50-7110, rkhadivi@unicef.org




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