Afghan school supply operation moves into top gear

KABUL, 9 March 2003 - With just two weeks to go before schools in Afghanistan throw open their doors for another full year of education, the Afghan Ministry of Education - supported by UNICEF - is redoubling efforts to ensure that stationery and teaching supplies reach children and teachers in time for the first day of school.
The Ministry of Education Logistics Centre in south Kabul will start producing up to 8,000 pupil stationery kits this week, each kit providing basic items such as pens, exercise books, erasers and pencils for 70 children. The Centre, which began operations last summer, is fully owned and managed by the Ministry of Education, with technical support being provided through a partnership with UNICEF. During full-scale packing operations 200 workers, including 40 women, staff nine production lines. UNICEF rehabilitated the former warehouse complex now housing the Logistics Centre at a cost of just US$ 50,000, repairing six buildings and installing washrooms and an on-site mosque.

The stationery kits now being packed will be distributed in coming weeks to schools in central Afghanistan, where pupil and teacher numbers are amongst the highest in the country. Of the 3 million children who returned to school in Afghanistan last year, nearly 1.5 million were in the central provinces. In 2003, UNICEF is procuring classroom materials for a total 4 million primary school children and 50,000 teachers. The supply element alone of the Back to School 2003 campaign is costing an estimated US$ 15 million.

The focus on packing and distribution at the Kabul Logistics Centre is another indication of how the Government of Afghanistan is now taking increasing control of the education programme. Last year, packing was undertaken in Pakistan due to limited capacity in Afghanistan itself. As part of its support to the Ministry of Education, UNICEF is providing guidance on supply management, use of databases and warehouse supervision to Ministry employees at the Logistics Centre to further increase national capacity. UNICEF has also rehabilitated 300 warehouses at provincial and district level to improve the Ministry's ability for handling distribution of school materials at local level.

Interested media are invited to visit the Ministry of Education Logistics Centre on Wednesday 12 March at 10.00 am. Please contact UNICEF for details of how to get to the Centre, which is situated in the industrial complex of Pul-i-Charki.

For more information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul +93 (0) 702 74729