Secondary education: continued ban for girls
On 23 March, contrary to earlier announcements made by the Ministry of Education, the de-facto authorities (DFA) requested girls to remain at home until further notice. This announcement, made through a tweet from the Ministry of Education, came as a surprise to girls, schools, NGOs, and governments, and created confusion throughout the country. In many places, school opening ceremonies were in full swing. Initially, in around 17 provinces secondary schools were kept open for girls, including in Kabul, but once the announcement was confirmed and followed up with an official letter, schools started sending girls’ home – particularly in Kabul.
We are deeply saddened by the horrific attacks on a high school and education centre in Western Kabul, killing at least 6, and injuring dozens on 19 April 2022. The senseless loss of life, and the inevitable repercussions within communities show yet again the right to education being threatened. In addition to the girls’ secondary school closures, another overwhelming barrier to learning is the fear and insecurity which families often associate with continuing to attend school in Afghanistan, and which is reinforced by attacks of this nature.
As of the 16th of April, eight provinces continued providing secondary education for girls. However, in some of these eight provinces, the picture is mixed with girls perhaps only returning in a few districts, or in schools that only have the facilities and teachers to provide a fully segregated education. The ban is directly affecting 1,1 million secondary school girls.
The decision made by the DFA, as well as its last-minute nature and the way it was communicated, has left girls, parents and their wider communities devastated.
Afghanistan has two different school calendars. In most provinces (the 28 so-called cold climate provinces), the school year starts on the 23rd of March until the end of November. In the six hot climate provinces, the school year runs from September-June. In the weeks leading up to the 23rd of March, expectations were high as the Ministry had announced the new school year was planned to start for all children at all levels – confirming this publicly as late as Saturday 21 March. This was due to include over one million female secondary education students who had been waiting for this moment since the 17th of September 2021, when they were asked to stay at home.
In addition to the 1.8 million boys in secondary education who have returned to school, there are around 5.8 million children in primary education across Afghanistan. Of these 2.3 mln are girls. Their education is facilitated by around 130,000 teachers of which 41% are female (around 53,000). Despite restrictions, backto-school campaigns have been successfully conducted in multiple provinces, and we continue to see high level of engagement and attendance where schools have reopened. The Provincial Education Directorate and the local authorities have supported the initiative for the back-to-school campaign for all primary education children for both girls and boys.
The Education Cluster partners, in close collaboration with UNICEF, put in motion a real-time back-to-school monitoring system to generate evidence at the school level to better understand the situation in terms of who (teachers and students) are back in school, at both primary and secondary level, and where boys and girls have been able to return. This is to inform both targeted advocacy and response.
Information is gathered directly and in real-time through observational visits to both primary and secondary schools, and feedback back from UNICEF staff and extenders, and Cluster partners. The information gathered is not representative of every district across every province, however, it provides a good sense of the overall situation across provinces and an initial idea of access to education at local levels.
Per 16th of April, 558 schools (312 primary (56%) and 246 secondary schools (44%) in 23 (67%) out of the 34 provinces have been visited.