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HRW: Prior to the fall of Kabul Girls struggle for education in Afghanistan


Afghan government and international donor efforts since 2001 to educate girls have significantly faltered in recent years, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Afghan government and donors made bold promises in 2001 to get all girls into education, but insecurity, poverty, and displacement are now driving many girls out of school,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs a renewed focus to ensure all girls have a school to attend or risk these gains being lost.”

A report by cips-cepi writes Literacy is the first step in the education ladder and more than 80% of women in Afghanistan are illiterate, the highest in South Asia. In rural areas, where 74% of the population dwell, women’s illiteracy is close to 93%. Female literacy in the capital, Kabul, for instance is 34.7% while it is as low as 1.6% in more remote provinces. Statistics show that only 37% of adolescent girls, compared to 66% of adolescent boys, are literate.

“Even when the Taliban fell, people didn’t want to send their girls to school,” a long-time educator in Kandahar said. 

Twenty years after the US-led military intervention that ousted the Taliban government, an estimated two-thirds of Afghan girls do not go to school. And as security in the country has worsened, the progress that had been made toward the goal of getting all girls into school may be heading in reverse—a decline in girls’ education in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s government provides fewer schools for girls than boys at both the primary and secondary levels. In half the country’s provinces, fewer than 20 percent of teachers are female – a major barrier for the many girls whose families will not accept their being taught by a man, especially as they become adolescents. Many children live too far from a school to attend, which particularly affects girls. About 41 percent of schools have no buildings, and many lack boundary walls, water, and toilets – disproportionately affecting girls.

Khatera, 15, raised in rural Samangan province, told Human Rights Watch, “It was very far to the nearest girls’ school – it was in another village…. On a donkey or horse, it would take from morning until noon.”

Girls are often kept home due to discriminatory attitudes that do not value or permit their education. A third of girls marry before 18, and once engaged or married, many girls are compelled to drop out of school.

The rural–urban and economic divide seen in the literacy spread for women is mirrored in the number of girls going to school: 3.9 million children are out of school, 85% of them girls. The majority of girls who never go to school (an estimated two-thirds of Afghan girls) are in rural areas. In some provinces, no girl attends school, starkly outlining the unequal, underdeveloped situation of poor rural women and girls.

In Afghanistan, only 37 percent of adolescent girls are literate, compared to 66 percent of adolescent boys. Among adult women, 19 percent are literate compared to 49 percent of adult men.

Beyond the war, there is lawlessness, which means that on their way to school, girls may also face unchecked crime and abuse including kidnapping and sexual harassment. There are increased reports of kidnapping—including of children—by criminal gangs. Like acid attacks, kidnappings have a broad impact, with a single kidnapping prompting many families in a community to keep children—especially girls—home.

Sexual harassment also presents a serious barrier to school attendance, as it is unchecked, difficult to prevent, and because of harmful gender norms can have damaging consequences for a girl’s reputation. Even when the distance to school is short, sexual harassment by boys and men along the way may force girls out of school. Families that were unsure about whether girls should study or not are easily swayed by rising insecurity into deciding it is better for girls to stay home and, often, to work instead of study.

Afghanistan is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The corruption present in most Afghan institutions undermines the education sector as well, most markedly in the large bribes demanded of people seeking to become teachers. Afghans asked to name the three most corrupt institutions in Afghanistan listed the Ministry of Education third, out of 13 institutions.

Corruption takes many forms in the education sector, including: corruption in the contracting and delivery of construction and renovation contracts; theft of supplies and equipment; theft of salaries; demand for bribes in return for teaching and other positions; demands for bribes in return for grades, registration of students, provision of documents, among other things; and “ghost school” and “ghost teachers”—schools and teachers that are funded but do not actually exist.

Selected Quotes

“By the time we walked to school, the school day would end.” – Najiba, 15, explaining why she and her eight siblings did not go to school in Daikundi, Mazar-i Sharif, July 2016

“The road to the government school has many thieves and bad boys.” – Hakim, 13, class 3 student at Community Based Education, Kandahar, July 2016

“The most important thing is to convince fathers to let their daughters go to school.” – Manija, 17, class-three student at a community-based education program, Kandahar, July 2016

“Men would disturb and threaten small girls. The men would touch us and do other actions with us, so we left. They were local men living nearby. No one tried to stop them – it happened to a lot of us. Lots of girls left school because of this – more than a hundred left. Kandahar people won’t allow their girls to go to school.” – Chehrah, 16, lived only 100 meters from a school in Kandahar. The harassment led to her asking her father if she could go to another nearby school in an area she believes is safer, but instead he removed her from school permanently, at age 12.

“In many areas there are no female teachers.” – Provincial director of education, July 2016

“We have 395 schools without buildings. This is a big challenge for female students because these schools don’t have a perimeter wall – they are open. In these areas, in most districts, people won’t send girls without a building and a perimeter wall.” – Provincial education official, Jalalabad, July 2016

“We sell fruit for 20 to 30 Afghanis [US 29-43 cents]. The kids here run around the market and eat peels from the ground. We are destitute. All the kids are illiterate…Should they take care of food, or education? … If your stomach is empty, you can’t go to school.” – A community leader from an informal settlement in Kabul of Kuchi people, who were formerly nomadic, explained why in his community few children go to school. He has five or six grandchildren living in the settlement, none of whom go to school.

“I don’t have money for a pencil for my son, let alone my daughter.” – A community-based education program staff member recounting a common response of fathers for why their daughters do not go to school

“We need peace and we need equal schools for boys and girls and equal education for boys and girls. I think boys [now] have more rights to get education.” – Qasima, 13, community-based education program student, Mazar-i Sharif, July 2016

The reports in Details can be viewed in the links below.


Article Source: ALAMEENPOST