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News note

First supplies distributed to Kabul schools

Kabul, 12 March 2002: The first student and classroom materials for Kabul schoolchildren began to roll out of the capital's distribution centre Monday, as the nationwide "Back to School" campaign moved up a gear this week. The campaign, which is led by the Afghan Interim Administration and supported by UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, aims to equip up more than 1.5 million primary school age children in over 4,000 schools and other learning environments by the start of the new school year on 23 March.

The supply of Kabul city schools commenced with deliveries of stationery for over 20,000 primary school aged children, 200 teacher kits and 91 blackboards plus textbooks to a total of five schools on Monday. Transport was provide by the International Security Force in Afghanistan (ISAF). The distribution equipped students and teachers with basic stationery items, teaching materials and schoolbags.

The first school to receive supplies was Abul Quasim Ferdowsi School, which hosts 2,000 pupils aged between seven and 18 years old. A number of older girls are also attending catch-up classes, having been unable to finish their schooling under the Taliban regime. The first pupil to collect her new materials was 11 year old Mina, who had been was unable to access formal education during the six years of Taliban control in Afghanistan, which placed severe restrictions on schooling for girls. During this period, Mina attended a secret home school, hiding her books in a shopping bag during the walk to the school in order to avoid suspicion.

On receiving her new materials, Mina said "I am pleased to be able to come back to school once more. Now I am studying properly, and this is a great time for me and for my friends. I went to the home school because I knew that learning was important for me, and for my future. But coming to a real school again is the best thing."

Distributions to formal and informal schools across Kabul city will continue this week. Materials for schools in outlying areas of the province will start being distributed from 15 March; student and school kits are already being transported by road to district distribution centres in preparation for the massive supply operation. Similar activities are taking place in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Faizabad. Formal schools, informal schools and home-based classes will all be included in the distribution of supplies.

A total of 6,000 MT of school supplies are being provided nationwide for the Back to School campaign. Materials are being prepared at a packing plant in Peshawar, Pakistan, which has been producing more than two school kits per minute, each containing enough stationery items for 80 children. Other supplies have been airlifted from UNICEF's supply hub in Copenhagen.

UNICEF Representative for Afghanistan Eric Laroche said today "This is an enormous endeavour being led by the Interim Administration, and we are pleased to add our support to this crucial initiative to provide education for children. After years of conflict and insecurity, the rebuilding of the education system will provide a firm foundation for stability in Afghanistan and uphold one of the fundamentral rights of all children. Already thousands of girls and boys are returning to classes in an effort to catch up on missed schooling - we are commited to ensuring that their energy and enthusiasm is supported by the basic materials they need, in addition to the practical support being offered for teachers and physical improvements to school premises."


For more information, contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media Kabul +882 168 980 0081