Defining the gaps: The case of Afghanistan (from education reforms to sustainable development)


INEE 2009 Global Consultation
Bridging the Gaps: Risk Reduction, Relief and Recovery

Istanbul, Turkey
31 March-2 April, 2009

Susan Wardak
Dr. Michael Hirth


The people of Afghanistan continue to place a high value on education [Oxfam 2006 ; Mansoori 2007]. Even the extremely poor households have elevated expectations from education as a way out of poverty and, rather than requiring their children to work, they send them to school in the hope of a better future. Ministry of Education of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes in Education as a foundation for stability, reconstruction and development of this war-ravaged country [Minister of Education Dec. 2008]. The vision of the ministry is to provide quality education to all children of Afghanistan and turn education into a foundation for economic recovery, democratization and social development [National Education Strategy 2006].

To improve access and quality of education, substantial reform initiatives that have been undertaken by the Ministry of Education in the areas of curriculum development, teacher education, technical education, literacy, structural system and human resource development, financial and information management, have been undertaken in the past seven years.

However, inspite of important achievements, numerous daunting challenges still prevent millions of Afghan children from reciving quality education. Particular constraints caused by insurgency attacks or threats and factors associated with refugee and returnee status, remain largely untackled. This paper provides a snap shot review of the accomplishments in various areas of education in Afghanistan and attempts to highlight some Gaps of serious consequences and finally makes recommendations for bridging the key gaps. Gaps and challenges caused by or associated with emergency situation and those crucial for a smooth transition from emergency to a state of sustainable development are specifically highlighted. Gaps identified are analysed in four thematic areas of : -Legal framework for education, - Access to education, - Quality of education, and - Sustainibility of reform and development activities The overall purpose of this paper is NOT to provide concrete prescriptions for curing the very complex challenges, but to invite discussions around this majorly neglected topic.


2.1 Accomplishments :

According to the Afghan constitution, the Ministry of Education is tasked to provide education as the basic right of all the children, free of charge. Furthermore, education from grade 1-9 is compulsory for all girls and boys:

"Education is the right of all citizens of Afghanistan, which shall be offered up to BA level in the State educational institutes free of charge by the State." (Article 43 of the 1382 Constitution, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan).

Same is echoed in the Education Law of 1387 (2008) where equal rights for all children to education are guarranteed. Commitment of the Afghan government to the international community, stated in the Afghanistan Compact of London 2005: "By 2020 all children in Afghanistan, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education." "By 1389 (2010):

- Net enrolment rate for boys and girls in primary grades will be at least 75% and 60%, respectively,

- Female teachers will be increased by 50%,

- A new curriculum will be operational in secondary schools,

- 70% of teachers will pass a national competency test, and

- A national annual testing system for students will be in place"


While there is no policy that excludes any Afghan child from equal learning opportunities, the actual measures in place to provide equal opportunities, accessible schools, qualified teachers and protect children from circumstances that takes away their rights of children, are not adequate to address the complex challenges associated with the emergency situation in Afghanistan.

Approximately five million school-aged children have no access to school or lost access to school or forced by circumstances to quit education. No provisions and alternatives exist for children who lost access to school due to school closure by insurgent attacks and/ or threats. On another important front, no clear legal and policy arrangements exist to ensure meaningful capacity development and institution-building necessary for a smooth transition from the state of emergency to a situation where reform and development activities do not collaps but become part of the system and sustain for a forseeble future.


3.1 Accomplishments :

Over the past 7 years, school enrollment increased from 900,000 in 2001 to over 6 millions (35% girls) in 2008.

While most of the Aghanistan schools were destroyed or heavily damaged during the violent conflict of 1978-2001, around four thousands schools were rehabilitated and newly constructed since 2003.

To provide education opportunities for older out of school children, an Accellerated Learning program was established in 2003, which assisted around two hundred children, mostely girls to completed grades one through three through accellerated programs and then join the public school system. This initiative is being continued in the form of community-based single-classroom, village based schools targetted at children in most remote areas. In 2008, the Community-Based Schools were providing education to around 158,482 students.

To improve the learning environment, speed up the school reconstruction, and create a sustainable medium for community participation in education, the School Management Commitees (Shura) scheme was initiated in 2005. As of March 2009, around 4000 School Management Committees have been established to manage School Grants that are aimed for improving schools facilities and other requirements. School Grants are projects that not only facilitate a partnership between schools and communities but also make schools more accountable and transparent.