MENA ・ Violence and tradition keep millions of Afghan girls from school

Educational systems around the world show increasing disparities between countries. Compared to the rest of the world, the situation of girls in Afghanistan is extremely concerning and does not tend to improve significantly. Sixteen years after the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in which the Taliban had been ousted, an estimated two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school [1]. However, during the American intervention in 2001, one of the reasons had been to bring help and assistance to Afghan women. Overall, the denial of education under the Taliban regime was frequent and prohibited any form of education for girls and women (e.g. schools, universities or any other educational institution).

Despite of Afghan government and international donor efforts to educate girls since 2001, the situation is still worse for them. Indeed, relying on Afghan government data from 2010-2011, in January 2016 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 66 percent of Afghan girls of lower secondary school age—12 to 15 years old—are out of school, compared to 40 percent of boys that age. To a mark of the Universal Children’s Day, the issues around girls’ education in Afghanistan is worth recalling so that world leaders commit to tackle education crisis in in that part of the world.

Barriers to girls’ education in school system

On the road to school, girls face sexual harassment. In just a few years, sexual harassment has become the main reason why families prevent girls from going to school in Afghanistan. On roads, men threaten young girls and stop them from going to class. In order to protect them, parents end up totally taking their girls out of school. From the age of puberty and sometimes even before, girls are rare in schools. In addition, crash attacks have become commonplace on the streets. “It happened on the road right in front of the school… Some students lost their eyes – their faces were burned… All the family decided no girls in our family will go to school,” 17-year-old Maliha said to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Insecurity and violence are also forms of violence that play an important role in girls’ attendance at school. Thus, during the Taliban regime, the schools and women teachers. In this context, parents preferred that their daughters stay safe in the home.

Barriers to girls’ education outside of school system

The problem of the education system in Afghanistan is also based on several external factors. Afghanistan is still and remains a very traditional society dominated by men. Therefore, it is widely prevalent in the norms that the place of the woman and the girl is at home. For instance, some Kabul do not value the education of girls. However, since the Afghan state promotes girls ‘education, it is not only the conservatism of families but also the lack of infrastructure that has slowed down girls’ return to school. “About 41 percent of schools have no buildings, and many lack boundary walls, water, and toilets – disproportionately affecting girls” [2]. The girls are therefore obliged to have lessons on tents while waiting for the construction of real schools. The lack of female teachers is also a direct consequence of the failings of the Afghan school system. Because for generations, women were rare in school, today it is difficult to find female teachers for girls.

From insufficient results to statutory obligations

Today, we can observe a movement of families fighting to right for their daughters to be educate. Human Rights Watch spoke to families who moved across cities and even across the country to find a school for their daughters or who had older brothers make the dangerous trip to work illegally in Iran to pay school costs for their younger sisters back home. A political impetus has also been noted. President Hamid Karzai and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) try to build schools, hire teachers and reached out to girls and their families to encourage them to attend school. However, the results are still insufficient and fragile because the Afghan government has not taken significant steps to implement national legislation making education compulsory.

Yet education is a fundamental right enshrined in various international treaties ratified by Afghanistan, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [3]. According to international standards established by UNESCO, the government should spend at least 15 to 20 percent of total national budget, and 4 to 6 percent of GDP, on education. Consequently, it is urgent that the Afghan government and international donors redouble their efforts to guarantee the right of girls to primary and secondary education in Afghanistan.


Article written by Fiona NOUDJENOUME






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