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Old 09-14-2003, 08:40 PM   #16
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Here's an article I just found on an Afghanistan reconstruction site. As it shows the situation is grim but not hopeless.

The government of Afghanistan and the international development community acknowledge that the revival of the Afghanistan's national education system is an essential component in the reconstruction process of other developing sectors of the country. However, reconstruction of a war-shattered education system is a challenging agenda that the Afghan government and donor institutions have been facing since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001. It is widely reported that the national education indicators of Afghanistan "are among the worst in the world, with girls and rural populations particularly disadvantaged."

An institutional infrastructure that is almost completely destroyed, insufficient funding, lack of capacity, gender inequality, limited access to and poor quality of education are perennial issues that the Afghan education system experiences today. Most teachers are in need of training programs that would facilitate their transition into the workplace. Although demand is rapidly expanding, access to education remains limited and resources are scarce, especially in the remote provinces. Teaching is largely based on outdated pedagogical methods and materials. The fundamentalist narrow-mindedness still prevents many girls from attending school.

Nevertheless, for the last two years Afghanistan has experienced a number of success stories on the way to revive its, once well-respected, education system. Despite the scale and spread of the post-war reconstruction issues the national community is keen to rebuild its education system. The demand for primary education in Afghanistan is constantly rising. The education authorities of Afghanistan report that "more than 1.5 million school-age children will not be able to attend classes in 2003 because there are not enough schools or teachers." To address the shortage of teachers the government provides discounted food and free medical services to public teachers.

The Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) in Education mission of 2002, jointly supported by the Asian Development Bank, the Afghanistan Assistance Coordination Authority, the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the European Community, the US Agency for International Development, and the United Nations, was a major milestone in the process of revival of the Afghanistan's education system. This initiative helped to develop the analytical framework, a budget proposal and program projects for 2003 and 2004, as well as identified and prioritized quick high-impact projects for the education sector of Afghanistan. The mission triggered a number of development projects and programs in primary, secondary, tertiary, youth/adult/vocational and technical education sub-sectors of the system.

The government of Afghanistan and international funding institutions consider reconstruction of the primary education to be of highest priority. This is justified by the importance of primary education in education cycle and the magnitude of the issue in Afghanistan. In March 2002 many Afghan children received a long-awaited opportunity to return to school. Within the last two years, the number of children enrolled in schools has tripled to almost three million. More than four million new primary school textbooks were distributed around the country, in an emergency back-to-school program jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Children's Education Fund and Afghanistan's interim government. According to the United Nations (UNICEF) this program "reached over 2.3 million school children in Afghanistan to date of which 30 percent are girls".

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the government of Germany jointly established a funds-in-trust to finance the upgrading of textbooks and renewal of the education curriculum. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in February 2003 allocated $60 million for a three-year plan to renovate 1,000 schools, print textbooks and train teachers. Help The Afghan Children the U.S. based NGO - built the first girl's middle school in Nejrab District, which accepted over 700 students.

As a part of its capacity building mission in Afghanistan, International Rescue Committee (IRC) held a 15-day management training for 25 ministerial personnel and administrative training for 49 headmasters in Kabul. More than 30,000 teachers received training in a program with the BBC Afghan Service and the Ministry of Education. This year, to improve the access to education for the Afghan youth the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State announced Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.

The Ministry of Higher Education in Afghanistan is taking a proactive role in rebuilding the national higher education system. Kabul University opened its doors to students on a limited basis and the Minister of Higher Education is optimistic about the future of this sub-sector.

The above mentioned initiatives have been progressing slowly. The national government is planning to accommodate all school-age children and "reclaim the lost generation of students who were denied education during the war and Taliban rule." In his interview the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Sharief Fayez, reported that within the next ten years he is expecting to have six high class higher learning institutions competing with other institutions in the region, and see more Afghans trained overseas coming back to the country to assist in national development.

Credits: This feature was prepared by Vlada Alekankina, Sana Haider, Leila Search-Zalmai and Ramin Aliyev

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