The World Bank says almost half of Afghanistan’s 18,000 schools lack proper buildings and an estimated 3.7 million children are still out of the classroom despite massive investment in the education sector.
The bank’s country director Sunday urged Afghan leaders to invest more in their people and stressed the need for continued international aid to create better lives for millions of people in the war-ravaged nation.
Data from 2013 shows that 93 percent of 10-year-old Afghan children cannot read and understand a simple text when they finish primary school, said Henry Kerali in a statement.
“This is higher than the average for the South Asia region (59%) and Afghanistan’s income group peers (91%),” he said.
"Afghanistan also lags far behind in reducing gender gaps, especially in the education and health sectors. Currently, 67 percent of boys compared to 48 percent of girls are enrolled in school,” Kerali said.
The World Bank official noted health indicators in Afghanistan are still worse than the average for low-income countries, indicating a need to further increase access to services, especially for women.
“Afghanistan needs to strengthen its governance by increasing transparency in budget spending, teacher recruitment, and merit-based appointments in education. The country also needs to improve transparency in health service delivery,” he said.
Ghani under fire
The assessment comes as President Ashraf Ghani faces a domestic backlash for asserting that he had “rebuilt the whole of Afghanistan.”
Ghani Saturday visited the eastern Afghan province of Paktika, where he addressed a public gathering and criticized local authorities for not paying attention to the development of the area. The presidential office in Kabul later released the video of the speech.
“I have rebuilt the whole of Afghanistan,” Ghani said and paused for a few seconds, apparently anticipating applause from the crowd. But the audience remained silent, prompting him to repeat his assertions.
“I have rebuilt the whole of Afghanistan, didn’t I?,” Ghani asked. He did not elaborate and promised to arrange funds for the regional development projects.
Ghani’s remarks come as Taliban insurgents continue to inflict dozens of casualties on government security forces every day and Afghan civilians also bear the brunt of nearly two decades of conflict.
The worsening security situation in Kabul has worried residents of the national capital where high-profile assassinations have become a routine.
On Sunday, at least six people, including government officials, were killed in so-called incidents of targeted killing that have plagued the city for months.
Saad Mohseni is the director of MOBY Group - which owns the TOLO television channel, the country’s largest. He tweeted that war-weary Afghans needed “empathy,” not “lectures” from their leaders on how well the country is doing.
“These types of comments can only anger the general public. Afghanistan is hurting and definitely not fixed – far, far from it,” Mohseni wrote.
A social media activist, Masuda Sultan, in a tweet, said, "Afghans are hungry, dying, subject to a 40-year wars ugly cycle and living through a pandemic. On top of that an angry President telling them that he fixed everything. Trauma upon trauma."
The hostilities have displaced millions of families internally in the country of around 35 million.
The Taliban controls or contests nearly half of all Afghan districts and the insurgent group has not eased attacks on government forces, despite launching first-ever peace talks with Kabul’s representatives in Qatar last month.