Afghanistan’s education system struggles to overcome hindering challenge

The education system in Afghanistan has adversely been affected by a bloody conflict. In most Taliban-controlled areas, attending school, especially for girls, remains yet an unfulfilled dream. As part of the effort, the Ministry of Education (MoE), six years ago, devised a 12-year reform program to bring reforms in the education sector that included construction of school buildings in remote areas, training more teachers, and publishing textbooks.

According to the official records, nearly 3.7 million Afghan children were deprived of schooling in the previous year. In 2019, education authorities announced that the MoE would undertake a reform program to educate 1.5 million children who they identified as children deprived of education.

Little has been achieved despite the fact that a large number of Afghan children still do not have access to education.

Though some progress has been made in the field of education, 60 percent of girls are deprived of school. A draggling bloody war, extreme poverty, and harsh social codes are considered major challenges that stop girls from attending schools in some areas of the country. The tribal Afghan parents hesitate to send their girls to schools where teachers are male. In the absence of female teachers, most traditional families in the remote areas of the country prefer to lock their daughters at home rather than enrolling in a school where a stranger male is a teacher.

Of the 220,000 teachers in public schools, 88,000 are reportedly women.

Lack of trained school teachers is another problem that has added to the challenges lying ahead of the Afghan education sector. In 2019, the educational authorities said that the MoE needed to hire 70,000 trained teachers to cover the areas where education services are either zero or very poor. The MoE had 50,000 short-term teachers on its payroll, with 20 percent of them holding a bachelor’s degree, 57 percent were graduates of semi-higher education institutes, and 23 percent of them were school graduates.

In 2019, President Ghani issued a statement pledging that the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) would train 100,000 teachers who were supposed to undertake a higher education program to earn bachelor’s degrees. The President announced that 57,000 teachers would be given an opportunity to complete a program of semi-higher education. He also boasted that all short-term teachers would be appointed as fixed-term teachers.

To partially meet one of the challenges, the MoE announced more than 11,000 vacant teaching posts, the Ministry’s officials said.

Lack of school buildings in remote areas of the country is another problem that hinders the nation from a proper education. 41 percent of schools do not have buildings in the remote areas of Afghanistan. In 2018, the President announced that 6,000 school buildings would be constructed but now with three years passed only 1,500 school buildings have been built. In 2019, the MoE said that the construction of 2,700 school buildings would be completed during a period of one year but 250 school buildings have been built until now. In addition, the President announced that 1,800 school buildings will be constructed in the current year.

On the top, a bloody conflict has displaced thousands of Afghan households and deprived a large number of Afghan children of the school. Nearly 1,000 schools were shut over the last 20 years and only 70 percent of them were reopened, according to the MoE.

But the number of schools to have been shut is far higher than the official figure.

The shortage of textbooks is another major problem in Afghanistan. The education authorities do not provide an exact number about textbook shortage though they admit that textbooks are short supply. Two years ago, the former education minister estimated that Afghanistan needed 90 million volumes of school textbooks.

According to a spokesperson for the MoE, Najiba Arian, 12.2 million textbooks were printed last year and 37 million will be printed in the current year.

The education authorities vow that the MoE will equip schools in Balkh, Herat, and Kabul with technologies such as computers, the internet, and fiber optics and launch distance education to reduce challenges. As many as 400 schools have been connected to the internet and fiber optics, according to the MoE spokesperson.

According to research, the MoE is one of the most corrupted ministries in Afghanistan. There are a large number of ghost schools, ghost teachers, and ghost employees in the education sector. According to statistics provided by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) on December 15, 2020, 12,000 ghost employees were identified by a commission, of those, 9,000 were found to be on the payroll of the MoE. To fight corruption, the MoE has begun to implement biometric registration of its staff but as Ms. Arian, says the process is moving too slow.

The outbreak of coronavirus has also negatively affected the education system in Afghanistan. In addition to public schools, there are nearly 2,000 private schools in Afghanistan, most of which are affected by the coronavirus and are at risk of collapse.

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