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Girls' education in Afghanistan lifts off with school supply shipment

KABUL, 6 February 2003 - Six weeks before Afghanistan's children return to the classroom at the start of the second full year of learning, the Afghan Ministry of Education is taking delivery of new school materials supplied by UNICEF as part of the Back to School 2003 campaign.

The first of a total 315 tonnes of "Schools in a Box" began arriving in Kabul this week as part of seven planned airlifts; over the coming days 782 kits, each containing enough classroom stationery and basic materials for 80 children, will arrive from UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen. This delivery will contribute to a total of 3,200 tonnes of school supplies due to start pouring into Afghanistan in the next few weeks.

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure supplies are available in 2003 for a total of 4.5 million girls and boys in Afghanistan's schools, with a specific focus on increasing the enrolment of girls at primary level. The Schools in a Box will be forwarded to provincial distribution points around the country, while next month some 260,000 kits containing teaching and learning materials for teachers and pupils will be packed at the new Ministry of Education Logistics Centre in Kabul and delivered to schools nationwide. The Centre itself was rehabilitated by UNICEF during 2002, and now forms the supply hub for educational materials in Afghanistan. The Centre is run and managed by Ministry of Education staff, with support from UNICEF.

The total cost of the supply operation for Back to School 2003 is estimated at US$ 15 million. Last year, over 3 million children returned to the classrooms of Afghanistan - a figure that far exceeded initial estimates. Renewed efforts will be made this year to increase enrolment rates amongst girls, which improved in 2002 but still fall short of the goal of seeing every Afghan girl benefiting from education.

UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Dr. Sharad Sapra said today "These first deliveries of school supplies mark the next phase in a continued drive to develop education for all - especially girls - in Afghanistan. UNICEF remains committed to supporting the Government of Afghanistan in increasing girls' attendance at school - an educated girl has a better chance of being a healthy girl, a girl who enjoys improved equality and status, and a girl who can fully participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

The next scheduled airlift of Schools in a Box is due to arrive at Kabul airport on Saturday 8 February. Media interested in covering the arrival and unloading of the cargo plane should contact UNICEF for final details of arrival time.

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For more information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul (0702 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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