KABUL — Following progress made in education over the last decade, work to improve education in Afghanistan is still needed in order to help nearly 3.6 million children make their way to school. This progress marks education as an essential tool for poverty reduction, safety and future development in the country. With this in mind, Teach for Afghanistan, an organization which began educating children in September 2016, challenges obstacles by promoting education tailored to the needs of the country, with the country’s near future at the forefront of its mission.
Part of the international education organization Teach for All, Teach for Afghanistan aims toward bettering education for all children in the country by placing qualified teachers in high-need schools, usually in low-income communities. The organization received 3,000 applications for 80 teaching positions, eventually putting the most talented teachers in 21 schools in the Nangarhar province and educating 23,000 new students this school year.
These efforts mirror the growing body of organizations in place to improve education in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban lost control of the country in 2001, Afghanistan has seen significant leaps in progress for its educational systems. In 2001, there were five million children in need of an education and only 21,000 teachers to provide them with it.
This statistic improved to an estimated 7.7 more children in the classroom from 2001 to 2016. Growing attendance rates have mirrored an increase in girls attending school, from only three percent in 2001 to 39 percent in 2016.
Afghanistan still faces numerous barriers to educating all children in the country. The Ministry of Education reported in 2015 that there were only female teachers in 80 of the 364 provinces. The same report stated that illiteracy, high overall dropout rates (especially for girls), a lack of learning spaces and a few female teachers are some of the remaining challenges still requiring change. The founder and CEO of the organization, Rahmatullah Arman, echoes other voices saying extremism poses particular threats to education.
These challenges aside, educating children today promotes leadership in future generations. As of 2015, 36 percent of the population was of school age. Arman names the country’s young population as possibly its “greatest asset,” hoping his organization can “help produce and inspire a new generation of collective leadership” across the country.
This change in policy marks how the public is viewing education as a method for tackling the products of its previous educational system, such as gender inequality, heightened access to extremism, and illiteracy.
With the future of education in Afghanistan in mind, Arman notes that “local communities will ultimately have to produce and support the leaders of tomorrow,” which closely tied to the organization’s educators. Ninety-nine percent of teachers in the program are graduates from Afghan universities, many of them being women.
The group hopes that hiring teachers who know the challenges facing education in the country will inspire children to promote growth for future generations. This change also sets a positive role model for young girls and their families in the face of gender inequality, many who are still hesitant surrounding women’s education.
Arman’s message about education resonates in the face of these barriers. Education continues to be the answer to many problems Afghanistan faces that keep its children from entering school. However, it has the distinct ability to help the younger generation better prepare for the needs and demands of a changing country.
With this in mind, Teach for Afghanistan, and the growth that it fosters aims to continue as a tool for prosperity and insurance for the country’s future.
– Cleo Krejci