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Afghanistan: Newsline

Girls’ attendance doubles in Afghan schools

©World Vision/MacIsaac
Bazageh, 7, Zareefeh, 7, Naseemah, 10, sit in their classroom in the Char Taq Girls School, built by World Vision Canada. They are in third class.

AFGHANISTAN, May 2006 - Girls’ school attendance has doubled in Afghan schools supported by World Vision and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to statistics collected by World Vision school monitors.

Using baseline numbers from 2004 when World Vision began its school enhancement programming, 8,522 girls were attending schools under the USDA-supported Food-for-Education programme. Two years later, in March 2006, records show attendance at 16,909.

Tim Pylate, World Vision’s USDA Food-for-Education programme manager, was ecstatic when he saw the figures, “A 98 per cent increase: it’s incredible. Attendance has doubled!”

Boys’ attendance during the same time period increased 31 per cent.

Pylate attributes the high numbers to the remarkable success of the USDA-funded programme. “The comprehensive package of services that World Vision is providing in Ghor and Badghis provinces includes teacher training and school supplies that are helping create the positive learning environment that kids need for success,” he says.

© World Vision/MacIsaac
Girls as young as five and as old as twelve or thirteen are attending the Char Taq girls school in record numbers.

Under the Food-for-Education programme, students also receive monthly food rations. Pylate notes that this is also a strong incentive: “The positive influence of the food on children’s health and nutrition has had a large impact on student attendance, too.”

While the programme has no monitoring mechanism for child health, the family response to school feedings has been significant.

During the former Taliban regime (1996-2001) the education of girls was strictly forbidden, while boys received religious training. Now, families have a renewed interest in sending their children back to school.

In the village of Char Taq, district capital of Jawand and the base for World Vision Afghanistan’s Jawand area programme, girls’ attendance has sharply increased since the school, funded by World Vision Canada, opened last May.

Sultan Ahmad, education field officer in Jawand reports, “At first there were 37 students. Two months later, 55. Two months after that, 100. Today, there are 200 girls.”

However, in Jawand and elsewhere, the limited number of female teachers remains a problem. Culturally, girls can only be taught by other females and there are more girls demanding education than there are women with the skills to teach them.

Through women’s literacy programmes, also funded by USDA, World Vision is hoping to help change that. It will take time, but Afghan school girls and the women enrolling in literacy programmes are showing in numbers that they are interested and will not be left behind.


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