Unexpected Number of Afghans Return to School

Preliminary data gathered from one-half of schools in Kabul, Afghanistan by the United Nations Children’s Fund show that over 200,000 children are enrolled, 34 percent more than United Nations expectations. Of the children enrolled, 100,000 are girls, 42 percent more than expected. These numbers, however, differ from the data provided to the Feminist Majority Foundation by the Afghan Deputy Education Minister in April 2002. According to these statistics, more girls (229,828) are attending school than boys (168,928) in the Afghan capital. Neither set of data, however, includes rural schools. Data on this demographic is expected by the end of the month. The initial numbers, though, are promising, as this year is the first year that Afghan girls in Kabul have been able to attend school legally in Afghanistan since 1996, the year the Taliban captured the city. The Taliban barred girls from school and prohibited women Ð the vast majority of teachers Ð from working. The ban on female employment resulted in a lost of education for many boys, who are now returning to school for the first time as well.

The Feminist Majority Foundation sent a research team to Kabul last month to assess the needs of women and girls in Afghanistan. According to Norma Gattsek, Deputy Director of Policy and Research, while schools were in session, many lacked adequate resources and were in dire need of financial support. Our team was told that the ministry of education had funds to pay for only the first few months of teachers’ salaries. Schools had little or no supplies, libraries had no books, and the school facilities were in need of repair. Groups of children attend schools in shifts because the schools cannot accommodate all of the students simultaneously. School buildings have been devastated because of years of war, and children sit together on the concrete for lessons. Despite the need for resources, however, Gattsek says that the students were “thrilled to be returning to school.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation is leading a campaign to help Afghan women and girls receive the education and healthcare resources that they desperately need. To learn how you can become involved, visit the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls.


Associated Press, 5/17/02; Feminist Majority Foundation

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