As a result of decades of war and hardship, Afghanistan has some of the lowest literacy rates and educational levels in the world. Educating Afghan youth is vital to developing a better future for this country. Education will help the next generation of doctors, teachers, business owners and government workers to create a better future for all Afghans.
There is good news. Today, 6.2 million Afghan children attend school, many of whom are girls. This is a significant increase from 2001 when only 700,000 students, all of them boys, attended school. Nevertheless, there is more work to do. Nearly half the school-age children do not attend school.
One of the most effective strategies to increase access to education in the Afghan context is a community-based approach. These small, one-or-two-room schools have been established in safe learning spaces, such as homes, mosques, and community spaces across the country. These schools have been particularly effective in meeting the needs of female students in remote and insecure areas of the country. Largely run by non-governmental organizations (both international and local), the schools have effectively addressed key barriers to girls' education including distance to schools and security issues around travelling to and from school. In addition to directly increasing access to education, the schools have other significant benefits such as providing employment for women as teachers and sensitizing communities on the importance of education, for both boys and girls.
Working with partners such as UNICEF, BRAC and Save the Children, CIDA supports community-based education (CBE) programs in Afghanistan. These programs have established more than 4,000 community-based schools across the country including the province of Kandahar, providing basic education to more than 120,000 students, the majority of whom are girls. In many communities, these schools are not just the only source of education but they may also be the only development project the community has seen. These types of initiatives provide a source of hope for thousands of young girls and their families across the country.