Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development

The Brussels Series 7 / Swedish Committee: Development Gains in Education, the Stakes are High for Afghan Children

Published: 11:23 AM 28-09-2016 Updated: 01:53 PM 20-02-2017

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The Brussels Series

The 7th episode of the Brussels Series is dedicated to Education. This is an except from a larger Briefing Paper prepared by Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) and endorsed by the following NGOs working in the education sector in Afghanistan, with the coordination efforts of ACBAR. The below organizations have endorsed the paper

  • Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR)
  • Afghan National Association for Adult Education (ANAFAE)
  • Afghan Women Education Center (AWEC)
  • Afghan Health and Development Services (AHDS)
  • CARE international
  • International Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband (DVV)
  • Islamic Relief Worldwide
  • Mercy Corps
  • Save the Children - Afghanistan
  • The Tashabos Educational Organization (TEO)
  • The Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan (WADAN)

The Brussels Series

Swedish Committee Afghanistan : Development Gains in Education, the Stakes are High for Afghan Children


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Progress in the education sector in Afghanistan is a key achievement that has been made possible by the generous assistance of the international community to the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan over the past 15 years. Currently, 8.4 million Afghan children are enrolled in schools of which around 40 percent are girls.

Now with the Afghan government and its international partners increasing focus on counter-insurgency rather than development, and with a deteriorating security situation in the provinces, the gains made in this sector are slowly slipping away. According to UNAMA’s recent report, increasing violence, threats and intimidation in 2015 left 103,940 Afghan children without access to education and there is a rising trend in violence against education[i]. UNAMA records show a 110 percent increase in number of threats and intimidation against education compared to three years ago in 2013. The deteriorating security situation in the provinces is one of the key underlying factors for low attendance of primary school age children in rural areas. According to the latest Education Sector Analysis, in urban areas 78 percent of children go to school, while in rural areas only 50 percent of primary school-age children go to school[ii].     

The government of Afghanistan and international partners will come together at the Brussel Conference on Afghanistan (BCA) on 5 – 6th October 2016, to pledge development funds for the country. The objective is to enable the government to implement its development programs, articulated in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF). It is crucial that donors pledge specific and long term assistance to the education sector and obtain commitment from the Afghan government to meet the development indicators in the education sector. In the long term, this will lead to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on education where all Afghan girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

The size of international assistance to the education sector should be increased. It is vital in order to sustain the progress in the education sector and also to increase the capacity of the Afghan government to enroll the remaining 3.5 million school-aged children who are out of school. Children out of school need to be supported not only to enter school but also to remain in school. The current data from the Ministry of Education (MoE) shows that only 18 percent of students who start school, complete higher education. The majority of the dropouts are female students. Overall one million students are considered permanently absent.

Expanding the scale of education provision, specially where geographic and gender disparity is concerned, is as important as ensuring its quality. The government of Afghanistan and donors should pay special attention to improving the quality of education, through long term investment in capacity building of teachers and in providing a safe environment for education. 

Afghanistan has the highest illiteracy rate in the region and worldwide, yet currently in Afghanistan, only 3.7% of GDP is being spent on education. UNESCO recommends that at least 6% of Afghanistan’s GDP should be spent on education. Over the past three years, overall expenditure in the education sector in Afghanistan has increased, but spending has significantly decreased in adult literacy programs. According to the National Literacy Department there was a 35% decrease in spending on literacy programs in 2015. The government of Afghanistan and donors need to immediately address the funding gap in the literacy programs: both should plan to double the current amount in the next four years and gradually increase the total amount of spending in the education sector.  

Within the current large number of unemployed youth, a substantial number are marginalized due to issues such as:  corruption, violence, routine injustice and lack of access to opportunities.TVET is an effective and efficient tool for empowerment, enabling youth and adults alike to escape the trap of poverty and contribute to their community’s economic and social well being. This needs higher investment to update the curriculum and to train qualified TVET teachers.

[i] Education and Healthcare at Risk, United Nations (April 2016), p.5-10

[ii] Education Sector Analysis, Afghanistan Volume 1 (June 2016), p. 80.