Friday, January 12, 2007

Schooling in Afghanistan

Here is an interesting study done last year just before the war in Kandahar broke out in full force, thus redirecting development projects that CIDA and Canada were involved in, into programs of military support for Canada's troops fighting the region.

While the Government claims to have funded schools and other education infrastructure, both under the Liberals and the New Conservative Government, the fact is no one knows how much was spent or where the money went.

And building schools, or claiming that we are fighting in Afghanistan for womens and girls rights, are great sound bites to sell the war to Canadians, but the reality in Afghanistan is of course completely different.

Often we hear about winning the hearts and minds of the people, but if you don't understand the culture, building schools and encouraging girls to attend them, is in actuality putting them at risk in a patriarchical community like Afghanistan as this report shows.

Understanding parents' attitudes to education in Afghanistan
A ‘Back to School’ campaign in Afghanistan has resulted in more than 4.3 million enrolments. However 2.5 million school-age children are still not in school. ‘Supply-side’ issues – school buildings, teachers and curricula – are receiving attention, but little is known about how families decide whether to send their children to school.

Pamela Hunte - - 28 November 2006

AREU researchers found that more than one member of a household is usually involved in an enrolment, non-enrolment or dropout decision. Even in extended families, a child’s father and mother play the prominent roles in the negotiation. Multiple reasons usually influence a single decision, with supply and demand issues often interacting. Rather than direct costs such as notebooks, pens, pencils, books, clothes and transport, it is more frequently the opportunity costs which determine enrolment decisions – such as the loss of child labour to supplement household incomes.

Poverty and cultural preferences for secluding females often result in some (but not all) boys in a household being enrolled, and girls not being enrolled at all or being withdrawn at an early age (after primary school and prior to puberty). However, there are families in most communities willing to take the social risk and send their daughters to school – at least for the primary years. Many extremely poor households continue to place high expectations on education as a way out of poverty. Rather than require their children to work, they send sons (and, to a lesser degree, daughters) to school in hope of a better future.

Researchers also found that:

  • Many ex-refugees have aspirations for their children after seeing the importance of education in Pakistan and Iran.
  • Harassment of girls on their way to and from school by men and boys of other households is a widespread fear expressed by a girl’s male relatives.
  • Parents’ relations with schools and teachers are often characterised by distance and distrust: parents are not encouraged to become active participants in the education of their children.
  • Providing school girls with fortified biscuits and rations of cooking oil to take home encourages more rural girls to enrol.

Many schools in Afghanistan lack proper buildings and furniture, classes are often overcrowded, and teachers receive irregular and low salaries. These pressing supply-side constraints need to be addressed but actors involved in education must also look beyond the boundaries of the school setting. They need to:

  • train head teachers and teachers in leadership and community organising skills
  • establish more local parent-teacher associations and strengthen existing PTAs
  • provide gender training to all teachers, encourage communities to think about gender issues and develop a curriculum which stresses positive gender relations in the home and in society
  • target outreach to children not enrolled in school and respond to demand for home-based schooling, accelerated learning opportunities and literacy training
  • explore scope for child-to-child learning
  • expand the school food supplementation programme.

This research was conducted in 2005, prior to recent civil unrest during which security issues have had increasing influence on household decision-making and school enrolment.


Our Allies In Afghanistan Oppress Women

Womens Oppression Continues In Afghanistan

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