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Between hope and uncertainty — Education in Afghanistan

Afgha­ni­stan is young: around two thirds of its popu­la­ti­on is under 25 years of age. Nevertheless, half of the child­ren and young peop­le in Afgha­ni­stan have no access to edu­ca­ti­on. The UN children’s aid orga­ni­sa­ti­on UNICEF esti­ma­tes that around 4 mil­li­on child­ren in Afgha­ni­stan do not attend school. Of the­se, 60% are girls. Ade­le Kho­dr, head of UNICEF Afgha­ni­stan, com­p­lains that if child­ren do not go to school, they are in grea­ter dan­ger of being abu­sed, explo­i­ted or recrui­ted. How does one learn in a coun­try torn by pover­ty and war, whe­re girls are still oppres­sed and schools are bom­bed?

Still far too many child­ren and young peop­le in Afgha­ni­stan have no access to edu­ca­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­ons. ©

The Afghan edu­ca­ti­on sys­tem

The Minis­try of Edu­ca­ti­on regu­la­tes and orga­ni­zes the Afghan edu­ca­ti­on sys­tem cen­tral­ly for the ent­i­re coun­try. The­re are four dif­fe­rent are­as of edu­ca­ti­on in Afgha­ni­stan: Gene­ral edu­ca­ti­on with pri­ma­ry edu­ca­ti­on and secon­da­ry edu­ca­ti­on I and II, Isla­mic edu­ca­ti­on, voca­tio­nal trai­ning and hig­her edu­ca­ti­on. After com­ple­ti­on of Secon­da­ry Edu­ca­ti­on I, stu­dents can choo­se bet­ween secon­da­ry school edu­ca­ti­on or voca­tio­nal trai­ning. Suc­cess­ful com­ple­ti­on of Secon­da­ry Edu­ca­ti­on II enti­t­les the stu­dent to stu­dy at one of Afghanistan’s 31 uni­ver­si­ties.  

Very litt­le edu­ca­ti­on for girls

Liter­acy rates among fema­le Afghan youths are only about 18% — whe­re­as the boys’ liter­acy rate is still extre­me­ly low at 51%, but well ahead of the girls. Girls are sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly exclu­ded from edu­ca­tio­nal oppor­tu­nities in Afgha­ni­stan. More than half of all child­ren who can­not enjoy an edu­ca­ti­on are fema­le, and in some regi­ons almost 90% of girls do not attend school. Many fami­lies refu­se to have their daugh­ters taught by men for cul­tu­ral and reli­gious rea­sons and the­re is a seve­re shor­ta­ge of fema­le tea­chers throughout the coun­try. During Tali­ban rule, edu­ca­ti­on was reser­ved exclu­si­ve­ly for boys. Alt­hough the situa­ti­on for fema­le stu­dents has impro­ved some­what sin­ce the fall of the Tali­ban, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, equal rights in edu­ca­ti­on are still a long way off in Afgha­ni­stan.

Of all child­ren who have no access to edu­ca­ti­on, more than half are girls. ©Drop and Ride

Schools in cri­sis are­as

Afgha­ni­stan lacks schools. About 70% of the edu­ca­tio­nal faci­li­ties were com­ple­te­ly des­troy­ed during the war in Afgha­ni­stan. Cur­r­ent­ly, many schools are being rebuilt, but the­re is still a lack of edu­ca­tio­nal faci­li­ties due to the ina­de­qua­te infra­st­ruc­tu­re, espe­cial­ly in rural pro­vin­ces. But even in the cities the­re is a lack of tea­ching mate­ri­als, a sta­ble power sup­ply, sani­ta­ry faci­li­ties and — most import­ant­ly — qua­li­fied tea­chers. In recent years, thousands of schools have also been clo­sed due to the dete­rio­ra­ting secu­ri­ty situa­ti­on. Over and over again, schools and other edu­ca­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­ons beco­me tar­gets for attacks. Many fami­lies refu­se their child­ren to attend school, also for fear of attacks or kid­nap­ping on the way to school.

A spark of hope

The liter­acy rate of girls and boys in Afgha­ni­stan has impro­ved signi­fi­cant­ly in recent years com­pa­red to the last deca­des. Alt­hough the big­gest hurd­le in Afgha­ni­stan is still school enroll­ment, it is clear that most child­ren who attend school actual­ly finish it. Only about 10% of Afghan youths drop out of secon­da­ry school. For the gra­dua­tes, this results in gre­at oppor­tu­nities on the inter­na­tio­nal labour mar­ket. In 2018, the Afghan Government decla­red the year to be the “Year of Edu­ca­ti­on” — a small glim­mer of hope for the future of the Afghan edu­ca­ti­on sys­tem and a sign that the government is final­ly taking this sec­tor serious­ly.

On the posi­ti­ve side, almost all child­ren who start school finish with a regu­lar degree. ©

Whe­re to go from here?

To ensu­re that as many child­ren as pos­si­ble are enrol­led in school in Afgha­ni­stan, it is important to crea­te edu­ca­tio­nal oppor­tu­nities for a broad base. Small insti­tu­ti­ons, even in remo­te vil­la­ges, make it easier for child­ren to enter the edu­ca­ti­on sys­tem and crea­te a uni­form level of know­ledge — for girls as well.  Afgha­ni­stan is also depen­dent on finan­cial dona­ti­ons and dona­ti­ons in kind in the form of tea­ching mate­ri­als and school equip­ment.

The­re is much hope for gra­dua­tes who have stu­di­ed in Ame­ri­ca or Euro­pe and are now retur­ning to Afgha­ni­stan. They should bring modern con­tent and working methods to their home coun­try. But in view of the con­ser­va­ti­ve cul­tu­re and lack of tech­ni­cal resour­ces, this can­not be imple­men­ted as quick­ly as desi­red. The uncer­tain­ty among young peop­le in the face of the thre­at of a divi­si­on of power with the Tali­ban is high: the­re is a likeli­hood that the new government will ban girls from access to edu­ca­ti­on, or at least limit it to pri­ma­ry school, as it did during the war. It is not yet pos­si­ble to esti­ma­te exact­ly how big this likeli­hood is.

Help for Afghanistan’s school child­ren thanks to NGOs

Nume­rous inter­na­tio­nal, but also natio­nal NGOs and asso­cia­ti­ons have made it their busi­ness to help Afghanistan’s edu­ca­ti­on sys­tem in view of the dif­fi­cult con­di­ti­ons in the coun­try. Tog­e­ther with PFO, a Kabul NGO, under which the well-known Drop and Ride pro­ject is also run­ning, Aba­sha has alrea­dy suc­cess­ful­ly imple­men­ted an Eng­lish cour­se in Kabul: Thanks to nume­rous sup­por­ters, we at Aba­sha were able to collect enough money at the end of 2019 to enab­le 20 Kabul youths bet­ween the ages of 14 and 24 to take this basic Eng­lish cour­se. PFO took care of hiring the tea­cher and selec­ting the stu­dents. The cour­se will start in spring 2020 and will last three mon­ths; fun­ding for the one-year exten­si­on of the cour­se is alrea­dy under­way. We are proud to open a door to essen­ti­al edu­ca­ti­on for the child­ren and young peop­le of Kabul and the resul­ting inter­na­tio­nal par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on and eman­ci­pa­ti­on through this offer.  


Apell an Kriegs­par­tei­en — “Bil­dung in Afgha­ni­stan unter Beschuss”. (o.D.). Abge­ru­fen am 17. März 2020 von‑48919326

Fast die Hälf­te der Kin­der in Afgha­ni­stan geht nicht zur Schu­le. (2018, 3. Juni). Abge­ru­fen am 17. März 2020 von

Ger­ner, M. Bil­dungs­sys­tem in Afgha­ni­stan — „Eine Macht­tei­lung mit den Tali­ban wür­de das Rad zurück­dre­hen“. (o.D.). Abge­ru­fen am 17. März 2020 von

KiTa.NRW. Hin­ter­grund­wis­sen für früh­päd­ago­gi­sche Fach­kräf­te zu Her­kunfts­län­dern — Bil­dung in der Isla­mi­schen Repu­blik Afgha­ni­stan. (o.D.). Auf­ge­ru­fen von

Län­der­pro­fil Afgha­ni­stan. (o.D.). Abge­ru­fen am 17. März 2020 von



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