Student enrollment across Afghanistan is increasing, especially among girls, with the construction of new school buildings including one in Khost city.
The building, which provides a safer and better learning environment, was built by a grant from the Education Quality Improvement Program under the Ministry of Education.
The program aimed to improve access to quality basic education, especially for girls, across Afghanistan.
KHOST CITY – It is early morning and girls in their black dresses and white scarves are lined up neatly in the school yard for assembly. After the recitation of the Holy Quran and a short speech by the principal, students go in single file to their classes.
This is the daily ritual in Matoon Sarnakot Secondary School in Khost city, the provincial capital of Khost Province. Students in the school come from different villages in the area. When the school was first set up in 2010, classes were held in tents. The hot, sunny days of summer followed by the rainy days of autumn made it difficult for students to attend classes comfortably.
“During the warm and rainy days, it was difficult for teachers and students to continue their lessons in the tents,” says Zabihullah, 28, who has taught English and Dari for the past five years at the school. “But, now, teachers and students don’t need to worry as they have proper classrooms in a concrete building.”
Today, students attend classes taught by 11 teachers in two sessions in an eight-classroom building. Nahida, 14, a 7th grader who comes from Zakriaan village, is happy for the school building, “After the construction of the new building, we learn in a safer environment,” she says.
The school building was made possible through an Infrastructure Development Grant (IDG) of $99,000 from the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). Construction took about a year and was completed in 2013. “The school is equipped with classrooms and teaching materials,” says Malmir Eamal, principal of Matoon Sarnakot Secondary School. “It enables us to perform much better than in the past.”
Increase in Girls Enrolling
Matoon Sarnakot Secondary School is one of 365 schools in Khost Province covered by EQUIP. The program, which closed on December 31, 2017, sought to increase equitable access to quality basic education, especially for girls. It was implemented by the Ministry of Education and was first funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) took over funding as co-financier of the program.
The World Bank is currently working with the Ministry of Education to prepare a follow-on project – EQRA. The development objectives of EQRA will be to to increase equitable access to primary and secondary education in selected lagged behind provinces, especially for girls, to improve learning conditions and transparency in the Ministry of Education’s resource management.
The school, which started with 350 students, has 1,400 students, 650 of whom are girls.
Student enrollment has seen a jump since the building was constructed. “The building has allowed the school to open its doors to more students and our enrollment has increased,” says Eamal. “Just this year, we have enrolled more than 220 students.”
Student enrollment has been boosted by the increase in girls enrolling. Having a school building has been crucial for the girls in the community as villagers are now happy to allow their daughters to attend school. Eamal talks about the need for another building to accommodate the increasing student population.
EQUIP started its work in Khost Province in 2004. It has constructed 38 school buildings in all 12 districts and the provincial center. “We are actively working in the province and none of the schools have closed down,” says Abdul Nasir Haqmal, EQUIP Provincial Officer in Khost Province. “We are also witnessing an increase year by year in the number of girls participating in school.”
Building Close Ties with Community
Since its inception, EQUIP has established 356 School Management Shuras (councils), which brings together community representatives, parents, and the school administration. It is also responsible for implementing Quality Enhancement Grants (QEGs) awarded by EQUIP. In Khost Province, 181 out of 250 schools have received the grant twice.
Matoon Sarnakot School is one of the schools that have received an additional QEG of $2,000. The grant was spent on equipping the school’s library and laboratory. However, the school still faces a shortage of materials and books. “We have a good building and teachers, but we do not have enough materials in our laboratory,” says Sabrina, 16, an 8th grade student at the school. “Since some of our lessons need practice, it becomes hard for us to understand the subject.”
The School Management Shura and EQUIP have pledged continued support to help overcome the challenges still facing the school, according to the principal, Eamal. The Shura meets monthly and works closely with the school administration to resolve the problems. The monthly meetings have resulted in good relations and trust between the community and school. “The construction of the building was contracted together with the community. They built it and it has given them a sense of ownership. We have solved lots of issues related to the school,” says Eamal.