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Afghanistan: Challenges in Education

The last 30 years of war, repressive regimes, drug fiefdoms, heavily armed militia and corrupt governance have destroyed the physical infrastructure and left the population in disarray. However, the Afghans have several things going for them. They are tired of war, they have had enough of Taliban rule, they maintain a national identity and are striving to promote development and education.

When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, education indicators for the country were the lowest in the world. A more recent assessment conducted by the Afghan Ministry of Education in 2007 cited primary school enrollment for girls at 40 percent, and secondary school enrollment for girls at 5 percent. Despite improvement in basic education access over the past five years, over one-third of Afghan districts do not have schools that girls can attend (U.S. State Department, 2007). An estimated 85 percent of Afghan females are illiterate (Education International, 2007).

The Afghanistan government has adopted a five-year strategic plan to improve education in Afghanistan. In the words of the Ministry of Education, the plan has the following goal:

“By the end of 2010, in line with Afghanistan’s Millennium Development Goals, net enrollment in primary schools for girls and boys will be at least 60 percent and 75 percent respectively; a new curriculum will be operational in all secondary schools; the number of female teachers will be increased by 50 percent; 70 percent of Afghanistan's teachers will have passed a competency test and a system for assessing learning achievement will be in place.”

The needs of the Afghan education system are vast and the potential scope for AFT work in the country is wide. The AFT has established partnerships with Afghan and U.S. nongovernmental organizations to provide teachers with practical techniques for the delivery of curriculum content, classroom management and dealing with stress.

Professional Development

The AFT partnered with Creative Associates International to assist the Ministry of Education colleagues with the development of lesson plans and classroom teaching aids for grades 4 through 12 in all subjects.

In July through September 2009, three AFT teacher trainers travelled to Kabul to assist in the BESST (Building Education Support Systems for Teachers) program, funded by USAID, to build capacity in the Ministry of Education for teacher training.

Nick Norman, United Federation of Teachers, New York; Betty Harris, ABC Unified School Distrirct, California; and Amber Prentice, Minneapolis, worked with a team of 24 Afghan education professionals to expedite the production of classroom materials that will be introduced in a planned training of teachers that will eventually reach 100,000 classroom teachers in 11 provinces. ( American Teacher , Oct./Nov. 2009)

Project Partners

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), a prominent NGO in the field of teacher training and women’s education, has partnered with the AFT and the Toledo Federation of Teachers to develop a three-day training curriculum on school safety and peer support for stress management. The program has included AIL participation in QuEST workshops and TFT training workshops and meetings in Kabul between TFT peer trainers and AIL master trainers. The training curriculum is incorporated in the 22-day teacher training program delivered by 36 master ttrainers at training 31 training sites in Afghanistan.

The Oruj Learning Center is an AFT partner that focuses on girls education in the eastern province of Wardak and the national capital city, Kabul. Like AIL, the organization has its roots in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. The founder, Sadiqa Basiri, was educated in schools in these camps, and when she was able to travel back to her home province of Wardak in Afghanistan, she began to organize girls’ schools, beginning with a school for 30 girls in her home village. Oruj has now opened six schools in Wardak for more than 2,700 girls. Virtually all of these girls would have received no education without Oruj.

The AFT has provided Oruj with teacher training materials that emphasize interactive teaching methods in the classroom as well as providing a grant to translate and distribute the materials.

Other partner organizations

  • U.S. Department of State, USAID and Embassy
  • Ministry of Education, Afghanistan
  • Teacher Education Department, Ministry of Education
  • Save the Children (UK)
  • Asia Foundation
  • Friedrich Ebert Foundation
  • International Rescue Committee
  • National Endowment for Democracy
  • National Democratic Institute
  • Creative Associates/Building Education Support Systems for Teachers (BESST)
  • Classroom teachers and principals in Afghanistan