UNICEF announced Sunday an emergency cash support effort for all public education teachers in Afghanistan for January and February, saying the move will allow continued access to education for all school-age girls and boys.
The European Union-funded payment, amounting to the equivalent of $100 a month per teacher, will benefit an estimated 194,000 male and female teachers across the country who have not been paid for six months.
UNICEF said in a statement that the agency and partners have taken the initiative in recognition of the “crucial role” these teachers in Afghanistan are playing in the education of around 8.8 million enrolled in public schools.
“Following months of uncertainty and hardship for many teachers, we are pleased to extend emergency support to public school teachers in Afghanistan who have spared no effort to keep children learning,” said Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF’s country representative
Ayoya said UNICEF would need an additional $250 million to be able to continue supporting public school teachers and called on donors to help the agency fund the initiative.
Since militarily taking over the country in mid-August, the Taliban have allowed women to resume work in health and education, and opened private and public universities to female education, while secondary school girls are also back in school in about a dozen of the 34 Afghan provinces.
The new Islamist rulers have pledged to allow all girls to return to school by late March, blaming delays on financial constraints and the time it takes to ensure that female students resume classes in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
Relief agencies say humanitarian needs have skyrocketed in war-torn Afghanistan since the Taliban took power last year and U.S.-led international forces withdrew from the country.
The United States and other Western nations have halted nonhumanitarian funding to Afghanistan, amounting to 40% of the country’s gross domestic product, and blocked the Taliban’s access to billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves, mostly held in the United States.
The restrictions have pushed the fragile Afghan economy to the brink of collapse, worsening the humanitarian crisis stemming from years of war and natural calamities.
The United Nations is warning that nearly 23 million people — about 55% of the poverty-stricken country's population — face extreme hunger, with nearly 9 million a step away from famine.
Tomas West, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, while speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, said Washington was also playing its role in ensuring Afghan girls return to schools next month.
“We have before the World Bank a proposal to extend roughly $180 million in support of teacher stipends and in support of books and in support of refurbishment of buildings and so forth,” he said.
“But what do we need to see from the Taliban? We need to see them deliver on stated commitments to open and enroll women and girls in education countrywide… after Nowruz [the first day of Afghan new year] on March 20th,” West stressed.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. Before considering the legitimacy issue, the global community wants the Islamist group to install an inclusive government in Kabul representing all Afghan ethnic groups, ensure women’s rights to education and work, and prevent terrorist groups from using Afghan soil for attacks against other countries