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First Day of School for Afghan Children

With the passing of Norouz, the Afghan new year and the first day of spring, children all across Afghanistan returned to school for the seventh time since the international intervention of 2001. This year, over 6 million Afghan children attended their first day of class. The number of children in school rose from 5.7 million last year, to almost 6.2 million, but the gender disparity among students is still a challenge.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that while about 32% of Afghan boys complete primary school, only 13% of the girls do. To help bridge this gap the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative has launched the Afghanistan Girls’ Education Initiative, which will support the Afghan government in its goal to enroll an additional 330,000 girls in school this year. Additionally, UNICEF is providing learning materials for both students and teachers, and is planning to cooperate with the Ministry of Education in the effort to build 300 new schools, train 48,000 teachers, and help develop textbooks and syllabi.

UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) in Afghanistan will receive a grant of US$13 million from the Government of Japan. The grant was officially signed in a ceremony in Kabul on March 2, and will be administered by UNESCO. The grant will benefit almost 600,000 individuals, out of which most are women, in 18 Afghan provinces, who are unable to read or write. Literacy is defined by the Ministry of Education as one of eight priority programs.

UNICEF's Deputy Representative in Afghanistan, Sikander Khan, stated that “This is a big challenge for all of us, the Afghan nation and the Afghan children, to bring about parity, or equality, for children and ensure that all children, whether they are girls or boys, continue to go to school, and complete their schooling, so that they can contribute not only to their own development, but also contribute to the building of the country.” UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education’s efforts to establish community schools where girls can get an education in a culturally appropriate environment, letting the new generation of girls be part of the learning process and enabling them to contribute to the development of Afghanistan.

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