When violence closes schools, Afghan girls are the most vulnerable

While more children haven been attending school in Afghanistan over the past several years, threats from Islamic militants undermines that progress. Human rights organizations say that when schools face challenges or closures, young girls are the first to feel the effects. 

Allauddin Khan/AP
Young Afghan students attend school on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sept. 5. Violence is forcing school closures, threatening efforts to increase education for young girls.

Spreading violence in Afghanistan is forcing many schools to close, undermining fragile gains in education for young girls in a war-ravaged country where millions of girls have never been to school, said a Human Rights Watch report released on Tuesday.

After more than a decade and a half of international intervention in Afghanistan, corruption, insecurity, waste, and other problems mean around two-thirds of Afghan girls still do not go to school, the rights group said.

Despite the challenges, millions of children have received education, but those gains are now threatened by spreading violence and declining international funding, the report found.

"As security in the country has worsened, the progress made toward the goal of getting all girls into school may be heading in reverse – a decline in girls’ education in Afghanistan," the authors wrote.

"In the most insecure areas of the country, schools are closing at an alarming rate due to insecurity."

While the war has affected schools since at least 2005, "as the fighting has escalated and spread to previously secure areas, more schools have closed".

In Kandahar, for example, at least 130 of 435 schools were closed over the summer, a local government official told HRW.

Threats from Islamic State militants forced the closure of at least 61 schools in the northern province of Jawzjan, education ministry spokesman Kabir Haqmal told Reuters.

He said he could not yet comment on the report's findings, but acknowledged that "Security has a great impact on education, and when there are challenges, fewer girls attend."

Access to education can be undermined by factors ranging from limited numbers of qualified teachers and community opposition to a lack of sanitary facilities.

One of the more successful education programs is also one of the most threatened by a drop in international funds, the HRW report found.

So-called "community-based education" (CBE) programs have helped expand access to schools in many areas, the researchers said.

But such programs were only a temporary solution, as they were all run by nonprofit groups out of a shrinking pool of international donations, they said.

"The absence of long-term strategic thinking by government and donors exposes CBE programmes, and students, to unpredictable closures," they added.

"International aid has been essential to the progress in expanding access to education since 2001," they concluded, but ranked bureaucratic hurdles, corruption, and insecurity among the reasons why the government often left the funds unspent. 

This story was reported by Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to When violence closes schools, Afghan girls are the most vulnerable
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2017/1017/When-violence-closes-schools-Afghan-girls-are-the-most-vulnerable
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe