School rehabilitation programme to increase learning spaces across Afghanistan

KABUL, 23 February 2003 - Efforts to increase the number of learning spaces in Afghanistan are underway in a drive to improve physical facilities for children expected to flood back to the classrooms when the new term begins in March.
At the heart of these efforts is a partnership with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) to rehabilitate at least 200 primary schools across Afghanistan in 2003, with a special emphasis on areas of the country where large numbers of people have returned from overseas. The partnership is investing US$8.4 million and initial assessments have been undertaken on schools in the north, south and east of the country with work already underway on three schools in the eastern region. The collaboration with UNOPS will also see water and sanitation facilities provided in 500 schools and the refurbishment of 32 hospital buildings. Funding for the school rehabilitation programme has been provided through the Japanese Government's Ogata Initiative.

During 2002, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education undertook rehabilitation of 101 schools providing improved learning environments for nearly 128,000 children. In addition to the partnership with UNOPS, UNICEF is now completing rehabilitation of a further 30 schools with NGO partners.

According to a joint study by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF undertaken in 2002, 30 per cent of Afghanistan's 7,000 schools have been seriously damaged. In total, two-thirds of schools are in need of some form of repairs. Only half of schools have available clean water, while less than 40 per cent have adequate sanitation facilities. UNICEF aims to ensure that every primary school in Afghanistan has a clean water point by the end of 2003, and will provide sanitation facilities in 1,500 primary schools over the next twelve months.

Physical infrastructure is one of the major concerns of the education authorities in Afghanistan. Last year, twice the anticipated number of school children returned to the classroom placing great strains on the already weakened education system. UNICEF supplied over 8,000 school tents to help provide temporary classroom space. In 2003, UNICEF is planning to support 4 million children attend school.

This week sees the completion of the rehabilitation of Hora Jalali Girls' School in Charikar, Parwan Province. Media interested in seeing the final stages of work being undertaken are invited to join UNICEF on Tuesday 25 February for a visit to the school site.

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For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul (0702 74729)

About UNICEF's Girls' Education campaign:

UNICEF's '25 by 2005' campaign is a major initiative to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in 25 priority countries by the year 2005. The campaign, which includes fifteen countries in Africa and Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, focuses on countries where girls' education is in a critical situation and progress would make a real impact.

UNICEF will work closely with national governments and other partners to identify girls who are not in school. In each country, UNICEF will work with the government to mobilise new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls to school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to girls.

UNICEF has chosen a manageable number of countries and based its selection on criteria that looked for countries with one or more of the following: low enrolment rates for girls; gender gaps of more than 10% in primary education enrolment; countries with more than one million girls out of school; countries included on the Education For All Fast Track initiative; and countries hard hit by a range of crises that affect school opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.

For further information please contact:
Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224,