Half of Afghan children miss out on school due to fighting, poverty & discrimination – UNICEF

Almost four million kids in Afghanistan are unable to attend school classes because of security and poverty issues, as well as discrimination against girls in the country, a new report by the UN agency for children reveals.

Some 3.7 million children aged between seven and 17 are deprived of their right to education in Afghanistan, UNICEF’s Global Initiative on Out of School Children reports.

60 percent of those out-of-school are girls, who are at “a particular disadvantage” due to gender-based discrimination in the Muslim country, the UN Children’s Fund said. The worst situation is currently in the Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan, where up to 85 per cent of girls are missing out on classes.

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FILE PHOTO: Soviet pilots at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan on January 1, 1989. © V. Kiselev

Lack of security in conflict areas and displacement of families due to fighting were mentioned as being among the reasons contributing to the first increase in the out-of-school rate in Afghanistan since 2002, UNICEF said in the paper. Poor education facilities and lack of women teachers were also a cause for concern, it added.

“Business as usual is not an option for Afghanistan,” Adele Khodr, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative said, as cited by the agency’s website. “When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment.”

There are also 300,000 kids who are currently at risk of dropping out of school. However, the overall dropout rates are quite low in Afghanistan, UNICEF reports, calling the development one of the “rays of hope.” According to the report, 85 per cent of children, who start at primary level are able to complete all the grades, with the figure for secondary schoolers being even higher.

The authors of the report have urged Afghan authorities to ensure safe learning environments, to train more female teachers and to improve pedagogy, as well as calling for the introduction of early education and distance learning, all crucial measures to improve the poor situation of education in the country.

READ MORE: Afghans question US worth in Taliban fight as Pentagon watchdog admits ‘lack of progress’

Last week, Taliban militants, who control nearly 15 percent of the country and are fighting the government forces to expand its territory, closed more than 20 schools in the country’s Takhar province, in response to the arrest of one its officials. The move reportedly affected more than 11,000 pupils.

In April, the Afghan Education Ministry said that over 1,000 out of the 17,500 country’s schools were closed, with most of them located in war-torn Kunduz, Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.

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