High Stakes: Girls' education in Afghanistan

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    Joint NGO Briefing Paper 24 February 2011

    High Stakes

    Girls Education in Afghanistan

    While millions of girls enrolled in school after the fall of the Taliban, donorand government efforts to improve education have slowed down and grow-ing insecurity is rapidly eroding access to schooling for many girls. A newapproach from both the Afghan government and donors is urgently requiredto hold onto the gains that have been made.

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    Table of ContentsAcknowledgements.2

    Acronyms and Abbreviations.....3

    Executive Summary.4

    Introduction..7

    Research Findings....9

    School Attendance..9

    Desired Achievement....10

    Poverty.11

    Early and/or Forced Marriage.....13

    Insecurity.....14

    The Role of Families and Communities...16

    Physical Access to Education....17

    Education Quality......19

    Recommendations...23

    Annex A: Methodology.29

    Annex B: Summary of Key Findings....32

    Notes..........40

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    Acknowledgements

    This research was jointly designed and carried out by the following organi-zations: Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Afghan Development Associ-ation (ADA), Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA), Afghan WomensNetwork (AWN), Afghan Women Services and Education Organization

    (AWSE), All Afghan Womens Union (AAWU), CARE, Cooperation Centrefor Afghanistan (CCA), Coordination of Afghan Relief (CoAR), Coordina-tion of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), Education Training Center forPoor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW), Legal and Cultural Servicesfor Afghan Women and Children (LCSAWC), Oxfam, Sanayee Develop-ment Organization (SDO), Shuhada and Swedish Committee for Afghanis-tan (SCA).

    The primary author of the report is Ashley Jackson. However, this projectwas very much the product of a collaborative effort and could not havebeen completed without the assistance of many individuals. In particular,

    the author would like to highlight the contributions made by the followingpeople and organizations:

    Lynn Yoshikawa and Aliase Hassany, who originally led the research de-sign and helped to coordinate the field research process; Kobra Ahmadi, forher research assistance and managing the field research; the Ministry ofEducation (MoE) for support throughout the research process and for shar-ing their data; Louise Hancock for editing support; Nate Koach and MattWaldman for input on the design and content; and several other individu-als who wish to remain anonymous for their inputs and support through-out the process.

    Dari translation provided by Jawed Nader; Pashto translation providedby Shamsullah Sampai.

    Above all, the author and participating organizations would like to thankthe men and women across Afghanistan who shared their experiences andviews with researchers during the study.

    Photo credits: cover photo and the photos on pages 17, 25 and 27 were tak-en by Elissa Bogos; photo on page 18 was taken by Mohammad Alam.

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    Acronyms and Abbreviations

    AIHRC Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

    AKDN Aga Khan Development Network

    AREU Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit

    ARTF Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund

    AOG Armed Opposition Groups

    IWA Integrity Watch Afghanistan

    MoE Ministry of Education

    NRVA National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

    NGO Non-governmental organization

    PRT Provincial Reconstruction Teams

    SCA Swedish Committee for Afghanistan

    UN United Nations

    UNAMA United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan

    UNICEF United Nations Childrens Fund

    WFP World Food Program

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    Executive Summary

    Female education has faced significant obstacles in Afghanistan, yet therehave been enormous gains since 2001. Under the Taliban, the majority ofgirls schools were closed and gross enrollment fell from 32% to just 6.4%.1In the early years after the fall of the Taliban, education was a top priority

    for the Afghan government and donors. Much of this donor focus was ongetting children back into school, with a particular emphasis on primarylevel. The Back to School campaign, launched in 2002, significantly ex-panded enrollment, which has increased nearly seven-fold, from approxi-mately 900,000 in 2000 to 6.7 million in 2009.2 For girls, the increase hasbeen even more dramatic: official enrollment figures have increased froman estimated 5,000 under the Taliban to 2.4 million girls currently enrolled.3

    Many of the girls enrolled through the Back to School campaign are nowcompleting primary school. Yet beginning in 2006, efforts to improve edu-cation in Afghanistan began to slow down. Nearly five years on, those ef-

    forts have nearly run out of steam. A new approach from both the Afghangovernment and donors is urgently required to hold onto the gains thathave been made.

    The MoE has undoubtedly made laudable progress in improving both theavailability and quality of education, but with such a large influx of stu-dents over the past few years, it is struggling to keep pace with demand.With donors increasingly focused on stabilization and counterinsurgencyrather than development, and with security deteriorating in many areas ofthe country, the gains made in improving girls education are in danger ofslipping away. Parents and students are eager for high quality education

    but they are increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress. If there is notsignificant investment in post-primary education, there is the risk that thesestudents will be left behind, turned off, perhaps, and cut short in theirpersonal, social and vocational development.4

    Based on field research, a review of theexisting literature and interviews withthose working in the field of education,this report looks at the state of girlseducation in Afghanistan, what mustbe done to keep them in school andhow to ensure they receive a qualityeducation. A total of 630 parents, 332teachers, 687 school-aged females and105 key informants in 17 provinceswere interviewed. Research findingsinclude:

    Female students have high aspira-tions for their educational achieve-ment. 71.8% of the girls inter-

    viewed want to continue theireducation. Of those who want tocontinue, 64.1% want to com-

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    plete university. Similarly, more than half of parents (50.8%) wanttheir daughter(s) to complete university.

    Many schools do not have the infrastructure needed to provide a qualityeducation. MoE data shows that 47% of schools in Afghanistan stillhave no building.5 his significantly varied across research sites, andwas particularly pronounced in rural areas: 8.3% of those inter-viewed in Balkh said their school had a building while 75.0% of

    those in Kabul did.

    Poverty was seen as the single biggest obstacle to girls access to education.41.2% of those interviewed named poverty as a major barrier togirls attending school. Linked with this, 39.4% of intervieweesstated that early or forced marriage was a major obstacle to girlseducation.

    The number of available female teachers is insufficient to meet demand.More than a quarter (26.4%) of the individuals interviewed namedthe lack of a female teacher as a major obstacle to girls access toeducation. More than two-thirds of teachers (68.4%) reported that

    their school does not have enough teachers. Of these teachers, morethan half (54.6%) stated that they need only female teachers, 27.3%said they need both male and female teachers, 12.3% said they onlyneed additional male teachers and 5.7% were unsure.

    Availability of education is insufficient to meet demand. Of those inter-viewed, nearly a quarter (23.7%) saw distance as a major obstacle togirls access to education. Distance, along with attendance in mixedclasses or interaction with male teachers, becomes increasinglyproblematic as girls approach adolescence, when cultural normsregulating their behavior become more restrictive.

    Decision-making around whether or not girls go to school, and for howlong, is complex and extremely varied from province to province and evenhousehold to household. There is also a complex relationship betweendemand factors (such as community attitudes and economic con-straints) and supply factors (such as school buildings and qualifiedteachers), indicating that simply addressing one part of the equationand not the other will not necessarily result in increased attendanceof girls in school.

    In order to improve both access to, and quality of, education that girls re-

    ceive, this report makes a number of recommendations to the Afghan gov-ernment, donors and aid agencies working on education:

    Increase the number of female-friendly, well-equipped schools for girls, es-pecially in rural or remote areas. Proximity must be a primary criterionin establishing new schools. Nonetheless, it will take time to estab-lish more schools. Both interim solutions, such as providing trans-portation to far away schools and ensuring existing schools haveadequate water and sanitation facilities, as well as long term solu-tions must be pursued.

    Increase the number and quality of female teachers, especially in rural orremote areas. Teacher training programs must be scaled up to ad-dress the shortage of qualified female teachers. Incentive programs

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    shoul