Until recently, schoolchildren faced daily challenges reaching their neighborhood school in Kabul because of the poor state of the street leading to the school.
The children and neighborhood residents now enjoy clean streets, less pollution, and lower transport costs thanks to the efforts of Kabul Municipality under the Kabul Municipality Development Program.
The program, supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, is expected to benefit over 1 million Kabul residents through better road infrastructure and municipal service delivery.
KABUL CITY – It’s midday and a sea of white headscarves and clean, tidy uniforms appear as about 700 girls from Grades 8–10 arrive at Bibi Zainab Kobra School. The school serves the Dashayee Jabar Khan neighborhood in District 13, on Kabul city’s west side. The students walk along the smoothly asphalted street and chat animatedly with each other, while school principal Zohra Wares, 52, waits at the school’s entrance to welcome the girls.
Students from Grades 1–12 attend classes in three sessions at Bibi Zainab Kobra School. A majority of the neighborhood’s workforce are day laborers, and many families are impoverished. With 34 years of experience as an educator, Zohra knows the students face many barriers to learning and education, including the problem of poor road conditions that can limit physical access to school.
Bibi Zainab Kobra School sits on Dashayee Jabar street. Before the street was paved, Zohra says the girls faced many problems. “In the spring, the giant puddles of water and mud made it difficult for the girls to reach the [school] gates. Some students would arrive with their shoes and legs covered in mud or soaked with water. We’ve had cases of the younger students so covered in grime from the street that they would miss school,” she explains.
Students and school staff also suffered from pollution caused by the poor street conditions. “In the summer, clouds of dust billowed into the classrooms every time a vehicle or motorcycle passed, disturbing class and causing health problems for the girls who coughed because of the dust,” says Zohra.
Altogether, the municipality carried out work on about 21 kilometers (km) of streets in Dashayee Jabar Khan and Sarak Azam neighborhoods, including installing drainage systems and streetlights.
The improved street infrastructure has also meant cleaner school facilities and better access to resources. “Taxis charge us less and are more willing now to come to our school because the streets are nice,” Zohra says. This has made it easier to bring in school supplies, she added.
"Life has become easier, and the children and elders are especially happy because of this. We can tell that the municipality has worked hard to build the streets to a high standard."
resident, Dashhayee Jabar Khan neighborhood, Kabul city
Increased Access to Municipal Services
These and other benefits are a result of KMDP’s efforts to increase access to basic municipal services in select residential areas of Kabul city, support better service delivery by Kabul Municipality, and enable early response in case of an eligible emergency. KMDP is supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.
The program has built about 24 km of trunk roads, while upgraded areas have benefited from the construction of over 330 km of neighbourhood streets, some 450 km of community drains, and 25 km of water supply pipes. Work has been executed to high standards as the technical designs are subject to quality assurance and quality control procedures on par with international standards.
KMDP aims to provide direct or indirect benefits to over 1 million Kabul city residents through municipal services provided in some 3,020 hectares of government-owned land. To date, about 2,300 hectares have been upgraded with more than 530,000 people benefiting directly and over 200,000 indirectly, including students and staff of several schools and institutions of higher education. About three quarters of the beneficiaries are estimated to be women and children. In addition, KMDP projects have generated more than 1.9 million person-days of temporary employment.
Building Roads and Building Trust
In the Dashayee Jabar Khan and Sarak Azam neighborhoods alone, roughly 19,000 residents have benefited from KMDP. Abdul Saboor Ebadie, a contract manager for KMDP, says benefits have included lower rates of illness, less pollution, lower transportation costs, improved access to potable water, and reduced travel time.
Everyday activities have become easier and the residents of Dashayee Jabar Khan and Sarak Azam neighborhoods live more comfortably as a result of the improvements. Residents confirm that travel times have been cut by 10 to 20 minutes, taxi prices have almost halved, and cars are plentiful in their neighborhoods.
“Cars used to refuse to bring us down these streets. Before, we paid 200 afghanis [about $2.75]* to bring two sairs [14 kg] of flour from the shops to our home. If the car refused, we would have to carry everything on our backs from the main road. Now, every car will take us and we pay just 100 afghanis,” says Abdul Majid Jamili, 25, a resident of Sarak Azam.
Better road conditions also improve essential or emergency travel. “When someone was sick, we used to have to carry the person on our backs to the main road and only there could we get a car to the hospital,” says Allahyar Qurbani, 47, a Dashayee Jabar Khan resident and stone salesman.
“Life has become easier, and the children and elders are especially happy because of this. We can tell that the municipality has worked hard to build the streets to a high standard,” says Allahyar.
Dawlat Hussain, 46, a shopkeeper and a member of the Dashayee Jabar Khan Community Development Council, believes that as a result of the roadworks by the municipality and the professionalism of KMDP staff, trust in the government has increased considerably in his community, who previously had misgivings about government projects.
*U.S. dollar equivalent based on the rate $1=72.58(August 2018)