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Afghanistan Struggles to Educate its Youth


KABUL — Afghanistan is trying to unify the country through a new national educational curriculum. But a lack of security, books, trained teachers and schools is making it very challenging.

Modern education is a challenge in Afghanistan. Educators are struggling with the aftermath of decades of war and differing political ideologies.

Education Ministry spokesman Amanullah Iman says it has taken 10 years to design and begin to implement a new curriculum. And a lot of challenges remain.

"The first problem is insecurity in southern provinces, 500 schools are closed there, and around 300,000 students are not going to school because they don't have access," he said. "The second priority is our professional teachers, because half of our teachers don't have proper professional training, and that is an important issue."

Iman says the ministry also has been rewriting the country's Islamic educational texts. In the past the Taliban, educated in Pakistan, had influenced the religious material.

"One of the big challenges has been Islamic studies, because many students studied in neighboring countries and when studying Islamic studies there they were against Afghanistan," he said. "So we have designed a new curriculum with our teachers and our Islamic scholars and in our national languages, we have focused more on love of country, and we hope to publish and introduce it soon."

Roughly 4.5 million books have yet to be published, due to a lack of money. Another five million books of the general curriculum are stuck on NATO supply trucks that were frozen in Pakistan for the last eight months.

Three million students around the country still don't have access to schools. And out of 16,000 schools, 7,000 are held outdoors or in tents because there are not enough buildings.

The Taliban continues to destroy schools in the south, and targets girls trying to get an education.

Arzu Omid of the group Women for Change says it is essential that girls get to school.

"If we want to bring about change in our lives, especially in the life of Afghan women, we need education," she said.

In Kabul, university students say the educational system is out of date and broken.

University student Hamid Aman says classes are crowded, and teachers unprepared.

"In schools these days you will see 70 to 80 students in a class, and the teacher can't teach that many students well," he said. "So, first you need to change the class size, then the teachers. In rural areas there are students graduating from high school who can't even read or write properly. Then those graduates are teaching the middle school children, so the students aren't learning anything."

The Taliban has fought against the new books, which focus on gender equality and globalization.

Ahmad Khalid Fahim of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan says the new curriculum is key to a modern Afghanistan.

"A national curriculum that defines the Afghan identity, but of course in a global perspective," he said. "To tell it in short sentences: to produce a local Afghan with a global outlook."

Afghanistan's leaders know it is the children who must be able to fulfill their country's expectations.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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