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Millions Of Afghan Children Still Not At School

Millions of Afghan children, mainly girls, still not attending school - UN

21 April 2008 - Although over 6 million children returned to Afghanistan's classrooms a month ago at the start of a new school year, United Nations agencies said today that half of the war-torn country's young people are excluded from receiving an education, the bulk of them girls.

"In Afghanistan, despite progress in school enrolment, in the last two years half of the school-age children were estimated to be out of school," Shigeru Aoyagi, Country Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told journalists in the capital, Kabul, today.

Among those not enrolled in school are nomadic children, children with disabilities, street children and children living with their mothers in prison. However, the majority of those who are not receiving an education are girls.

This is the case even though the enrolment of girls, who were barred from going to school under the repressive Taliban regime, has increased significantly in the past five years, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"We still have 1.2 million girls of school age who do not have access to schools," said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Country Representative in Afghanistan. "We have a lot of work to do to make sure all conditions are met so that schools are friendly to girls."

The reasons why so many children are not in school include a lack of teachers, schools sited close to families, educational materials and, in some areas, security.

To address the challenges associated with education in Afghanistan, UN agencies, in collaboration with the Government, are involved in the construction of schools; teacher training - particularly of female teachers; the provision of textbooks and other materials; and talking with families and community and religious leaders on the importance of education.

"The involvement of communities, of parents, of society as a whole in education is a must in this country, given that we have a lot of gaps in terms of finance, in terms of human resources, in terms of access," noted Mr. Aoyagi. "If we just stick to the promotion of formal education and if we are not aware of the limitation of formal education we cannot promote education for all in this country."

Today is the start of Global Action Week for Education, in which countries all over the world reaffirm their commitment to achieving the "Education for All" goals set by over 160 countries at the 2000 World Education Conference in Dakar, Senegal.


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