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Rebuilding Afghanistan's education system

Latest update : 2008-06-12

After years of reconstruction, some Afghan teachers and their pupils can finally work in new classrooms. Yet, they still face daunting problems of overcrowding and limited equipment. (Report: C. Billet, M. Shékib)

“Until last year, those tents were used as classrooms for the children,” says the principal of the Araban-e-Qarga school. He’s been waiting 20 years for this new school building. At last, children will be able to work in classrooms.

While they wait for electricity and equipment, they are doing the best they can. The new building is already too small for the 2,600 children enrolled. Classes are overcrowded, and teaching hours are organised on a rotating basis. Tents are being used to protect the furniture that cannot fit inside the building. It seems that the education system is still in dire need of political and financial means.
The consequence is that schools have great difficulty in hiring professional teachers. “Here, my salary is 48 euros,” explains Modjibullah Gharmani, who teaches English and Sports at the Araban-e-Qarga school. “I have 3 children, 5 brothers and my parents. With just this salary, it would be impossible for us to pay all our basic expenses, like our house.”

At the Saydal Nasiri school in the capital Kabul, the situation is hardly different. The building is brand new, but the classes count 50 students each and many teachers haven't graduated from high school.

According to the principal, Rayona Nuri, officials care more about quantity than quality. “We think that no reform was made, that they didn't use the money to reform the education system. The government doesn't spend the money brought by the international community to print books, to build schools or to raise the salaries of teachers and civil servants. Or, at the end of the day, to help the students in need”. While she won’t say it on the record, she seems to share the common view that the money is lost in corruption.

Adiba is a teacher at Saydal Naseri school. “This aid is devided in two parts,” she argues. “Half or less is spent on the education system. And the other half, they put it in their pocket! Because of that, we have a poor educational system and if things go on like this, it can only get worse”.

Despite these problems, schooling in Kabul is still better than in the rest of the country, says Rayona Nuri, who’s been teaching for the past three decades. In the country’s eastern and southern provinces, schools remain empty. Only three in ten children go to school, due to poverty, insecurity and the ongoing violence.

Date created : 2008-06-12