The Global Partnership for Education has helped more than 19 million children go to school for the first time. A campaign to renew support for these efforts culminates in a pledging event in Copenhagen on 7-8 November 2011. This series of stories seeks to highlight the Partnership’s work during this critical time.
By Abdul Aziz Froutan
PANJSHIR VALLEY, Afganistan, 8 November 2011 – In a neat, well designed classroom in the Panjshir Valley, 30 girls listen intently as their female teacher instructs them in grammar and writing. Although common today, this was largely unheard of only a decade ago. Under Taliban rule, schooling in Afghanistan was nearly brought to a complete halt, and many girls were expressly forbidden from receiving an education.
Since the regime’s fall, the number of children in school has increased dramatically, from less than a million in 2001 to six million today. The families in Panjshir Valley were on the front line of the battles ten years ago, today, they are rebuilding their lives and sending their children to school.
Thirteen-year-old Nafissa knows how important education is to her future. “Now we are studying and we want to graduate from 12th grade,” she said. “We even hope to continue on to higher education.”
If Afghanistan is to develop into a peaceful and stable country, the education of females must be made a priority.
“We had no school here and some of the children would have to travel to another town, far away from here, to go to school,” recalled Fazl-ul-Rahman, a community leader and member of the school protection Shura (council) in Bibi Hava High School in northern Panjshir Valley.
Not everyone in Afghanistan recognises the right of all children to receive an education. In this traditional society, many families prefer to send only boys to school, either because of limited financial resources or concerns about the honour and safety of their daughters. To address these issues, UNICEF and partners are setting up committees and community groups to strengthen school security and help boost girls’ enrolment.
Despite the challenges of ongoing conflict, Shuras are working to prevent attacks against schools and to raise awareness of the importance of education.
Shura member Abdul Basir spoke to this point. “In the past, ensuring protection for schools was very difficult,” he explained. “Now people are more aware of the importance of education for our children.”
The Global Partnership for Education
In March 2011, Afghanistan became a member of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a consortium of governments working to strengthen education systems throughout the world. Membership represents a critical milestone in education development in Afghanistan, providing critically needed technical and financial support for initiatives to promote gender equality and girls’ enrolment.
Admittance into the partnership is based on a robust panel review process that critically assesses a country’s ability to administer the financial grant that is awarded from the GPE and to execute the proposed education development strategy. Afghanistan’s acceptance serves as an endorsement of the Government’s plans to reach its goal of Education for All.
Hope for the future
As more students return to school, empowering them to effect change in their lives and communities, there is continued hope that Afghanistan can succeed in building a solid foundation for a peaceful and prosperous future.
“More than anything else, it is education that offers the greatest hope for the future of Afghanistan,” said Peter Crowley, Representative, UNICEF Afghanistan. “It is terribly important that all stakeholders supporting the government in the development of the sector, maintain the faith, continue their efforts, continue their investments, because with a further expansion of education, with a demonstration of what it can offer in terms of a better future for the children of Afghanistan, this will serve as a very, very powerful incentive to maintain peace and stability in the country.”