The reopening of schools for girls comes after the authorities only allowed boys to return to their classrooms last September, in a move that caused widespread global outrage and concern for the future of girls’ and women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Save the Children Afghanistan’s Country Director, Christopher Nyamandi, said:
“The move today by the Ministry of Education is a welcome – and necessary – first step in restoring girls’ rights. However, reopening schools for girls is only the beginning, now there is work to be done to ensure the authorities fulfil their obligation to children across Afghanistan.
“Resources and commitment will be needed to turn this promise into practice. For girls to go to school we need more female teachers, facilities and classrooms. It is a long road ahead.
“At present, more than $160 million in funding is needed to meet basic minimum education needs. With the upcoming pledging conference on 31 March – which is being co-hosted by the UK, Germany and Qatar – we urge the international community to commit to this funding to allow children to remain in school. Afghan children need action and funds, not words, to survive.”
According to an assessment conducted by Save the Children in November and December 2021, nearly 40% of girls aged 10-18 were out of school, compared to 25% of boys.* Girls in Afghanistan have missed out on millions of days of learning as a result of the secondary school closures.
Hasina*, 14, from Kabul province, is in grade six and should be starting her first year of secondary school today. Hasina and her sister have been unable to attend formal schooling due to fears of violence but have instead been attending Save the Children-run community-based education classes. Hasina said:
“When my brothers were going to schools, we were feeling sad because they could go, and we couldn’t. I felt hopeless when I saw my brother waking up early to go to school…But now I can be an equal person to my brother. While he is getting ready and leaving for school, so am I.
“It is essential for women and men to be educated. As much as boys want a chance to improve their lives, we girls also want this chance. Girls have the right to be educated. Education and studying completely changes people’s lives and futures. If you have a dream, [with education] you can achieve it.
“For girls who can’t go to school, I think they must be sad, in the same way that we used to be when we couldn’t go to school. If you can go to school, you will be happy. If not, you will be sad and it will feel like you have lost something in your life.”
Shukuria*, 28, is from a southern province of Afghanistan and was married at the age of 17 – to a man 35 years her senior – and is now a mother to five children. She had never been to school until she was 25 years old. Shukuria is now supported by Save the Children’s girls education classes.
Shukuria’s husband can no longer work and her eldest son, who is 12, now works in a car repair shop to help the family make ends meet. Without any education, Shukuria has struggled to get a job to provide for her children and husband. On her decision to start her education at age 25, Shukuria said:
“People were scared when the transition of power happened, as they were not allowing many girls to go to education facilities. Even if they were allowed, girls were too scared to go to class.”
“These (Save the Children’s) classes can help girls left behind in their studies. Education is the most important thing in life. For my children, I hope they study and improve and get to live their dreams. For myself, I hope to become a good teacher and to serve the students of this society.”
It’s estimated that almost 8 million school-aged children need support to access education right now in Afghanistan - an increase from 2.6 million[i] compared to last year.[ii] Insecurity, poverty, cultural traditions, poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials and a lack of qualified female and male teachers are continuing barriers to children accessing education.
To ensure children have still had access education during the last six months, Save the Children has been running Community-Based Education classes and providing children and teachers with learning and classroom kits. The organisation has also been working with female secondary school graduates to support them to become teachers and to pass the university entrance exam.
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Notes to editor:
- The Multi-sector Needs Assessment collected data from 1,409 caregivers and children from across the provinces of Balkh, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan, Kabul, Nangarhar and Kandahar. These provinces reflect those where Save the Children Afghanistan is operating and could be safely accessed. The minimum sample in each province was 189 households and an even gender split was ensured. The survey was conducted from 17 November 2021 to 2 December 2021 and administered in either Pashto or Dari.
- Save the Children has been supporting communities and protecting children's rights across Afghanistan since 1976, including during periods of conflict, regime change, and natural disasters. The organisation has programmes in 10 provinces and work with partners in an additional three provinces. Since the crisis escalated in August 2021, Save the Children has been scaling up its response to support the increasing number of children in need, delivering health, nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene and food security and livelihoods support.