Educational sites in Afghanistan are changing from bastions of hope and safety into spaces of fear, armed conflict and politics.
Rather than safe spaces for learning, schools in Afghanistan are increasingly becoming military, ideological and political battlegrounds. The international community and parties to the conflict in Afghanistan are neglecting and violating established commitments to protect students, teachers and educational facilities in armed conflict.
Whilst tremendous gains in rebuilding the public education system in Afghanistan have been achieved, worrying new barriers to education are arising across the country. These are primarily due to rising conflict and insecurity, but impoverishment and gender discrimination are also increasingly threatening to reverse the progress made since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2012. Today over 2.6 million Afghan boys and girls are still unable to access primary education, according to UNICEF’s 2018 study on out-of-school children. The upsurge in armed conflict over the past two years has displaced over a million Afghans within their own country; the majority of whom are children.
NRC’s 2018 study Escaping War: Where to Next? found few families have access to basic services whilst they are displaced, depending more upon extended family members than they can on the government or aid agencies. When a high number of Afghan boys and girls who have fled armed conflict arrive into an area, it can easily overwhelm an already struggling public school systems.
Current projections outline that it will be impossible for Afghanistan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 target of ensuring all boys and girls can complete primary education by 2030, without serious and immediate remedial action.
Afghanistan remains the country furthest behind on SDG4 in the South Asia region, which is one of the regions furthest behind globally. The turmoil of multiple and protracted forced displacement has clearly played a significant part in hindering progress.
In 2017, the Humanitarian Country Team for Afghanistan officially recognised education as a humanitarian priority, with some six per cent of the overall 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Afghanistan (547m USD) dedicated to Education in Emergency. However, as of early July 2018, the Education in Emergencies response for Afghanistan was only 12.5% funded. Despite leading donors’ global commitments and rhetoric, resources for the safety and future of Afghan children seem bleaker than ever. Moreover, their schools, and their future are increasingly under attack.