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Afghan school supply operation moves into top gear

KABUL, 9 March 2003 - With just two weeks to go before schools in Afghanistan throw open their doors for another full year of education, the Afghan Ministry of Education - supported by UNICEF - is redoubling efforts to ensure that stationery and teaching supplies reach children and teachers in time for the first day of school.

The Ministry of Education Logistics Centre in south Kabul will start producing up to 8,000 pupil stationery kits this week, each kit providing basic items such as pens, exercise books, erasers and pencils for 70 children. The Centre, which began operations last summer, is fully owned and managed by the Ministry of Education, with technical support being provided through a partnership with UNICEF. During full-scale packing operations 200 workers, including 40 women, staff nine production lines. UNICEF rehabilitated the former warehouse complex now housing the Logistics Centre at a cost of just US$ 50,000, repairing six buildings and installing washrooms and an on-site mosque.

The stationery kits now being packed will be distributed in coming weeks to schools in central Afghanistan, where pupil and teacher numbers are amongst the highest in the country. Of the 3 million children who returned to school in Afghanistan last year, nearly 1.5 million were in the central provinces. In 2003, UNICEF is procuring classroom materials for a total 4 million primary school children and 50,000 teachers. The supply element alone of the Back to School 2003 campaign is costing an estimated US$ 15 million.

The focus on packing and distribution at the Kabul Logistics Centre is another indication of how the Government of Afghanistan is now taking increasing control of the education programme. Last year, packing was undertaken in Pakistan due to limited capacity in Afghanistan itself. As part of its support to the Ministry of Education, UNICEF is providing guidance on supply management, use of databases and warehouse supervision to Ministry employees at the Logistics Centre to further increase national capacity. UNICEF has also rehabilitated 300 warehouses at provincial and district level to improve the Ministry's ability for handling distribution of school materials at local level.

Interested media are invited to visit the Ministry of Education Logistics Centre on Wednesday 12 March at 10.00 am. Please contact UNICEF for details of how to get to the Centre, which is situated in the industrial complex of Pul-i-Charki.

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For more information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul +93 (0) 702 74729

About UNICEF’s Girls’ Education campaign:

UNICEF’s ‘25 by 2005’ campaign is a major initiative to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in 25 priority countries by the year 2005. The campaign, which includes fifteen countries in Africa and Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, focuses on countries where girls’ education is in a critical situation and progress would make a real impact.

UNICEF will work closely with national governments and other partners to identify girls who are not in school. In each country, UNICEF will work with the government to mobilise new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls to school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to girls.

UNICEF has chosen a manageable number of countries and based its selection on criteria that looked for countries with one or more of the following: low enrolment rates for girls; gender gaps of more than 10% in primary education enrolment; countries with more than one million girls out of school; countries included on the Education For All Fast Track initiative; and countries hard hit by a range of crises that affect school opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.

For further information please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224, ahickling@unicef.org





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