Protecting Education and Addressing Child Protection Challenges in Afghanistan

Nov 2020

On Monday 16th of November, AfD attended the virtual event: “Protecting Education and Addressing Child Protection Challenges in Afghanistan”, featuring the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, Norway, and Sweden to the UN in Geneva, Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), Save the Children International and Afghanistan Country Office, UNICEF Afghanistan and World Vision. An initiative aiming to address challenges and progress made in regards to education protection in Afghanistan.

By Maude Girard – Action for Development, 16 November 2020

Progress and the COVID-19 crisis

We have seen a progress since 2001. Up to 7% of girls today are in school. That is a remarkable progress. But still, 3.7 million – a huge number – of children are not in school. And 60% of those are girls” stated Christopher Nyamandi, Country Director of Save the Children Afghanistan. Before adding “between 14 and 17 million people will be needing humanitarian assistance, including food assistance, in Afghanistan, of whom 7 million children. Although there has been progress, the COVID-19 emergency is threatening the results achieved so far and now we need more than ever to come together again, including the government, the donors and the civil society to bring children back to school”.

Emphasizing the progress made seems to have been one of the priorities of the virtual event.And this not only in order to identify the current needs but also to trace with even more relevance, the urgent and future necessities, especially in a context of global pandemic and unstable peace process.

Protecting education, the positive steps

Progress have also been noted in regards to the protection of education. ‘Military use of schools has declined in the country in recent years. And particularly since the government endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in 2015’ explained Marika Tsolakis, Senior Researcher at Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). She also highlighted a number of positive steps “We’ve seen some really excellent work to implement the Safe Schools Declaration by the government and partners working in the field. For example, we saw that a risk analysis and strategy helped to prevent attacks on schools during the 2019 presidential election when many schools were used as polling stations. We also noted that the 2019 road map for peace, referred to the protection of schools from being used for military purposes. And, finally, the government is developing a comprehensive school safety framework to further consolidate gains.”

Yet, the recent terrorist attack against Kabul University, killing 19 students and injuring others, highlights not only the fragile state of Afghan institutions, but also the fact that education facilities are still being regularly targeted for attacks. “Nearly 1500 students and personnel were killed or harmed during attacks on education over the last 5 years in Afghanistan. This is really a critical issue for child protection and education in Afghanistan” reminded Marika Tsolakis. Attacks against 40 girls-only schools between the years 2018 and 2019, highlights the serious threat against girls’ access to education and reaching gender equality in the country.

Education and Gender

The panelists put a lot of emphasis on the link between security and access to education for girls.“In primary education the completion rate for girls would be 67%, when you move to secondary education it falls to 14% for girls, compared to 60% for boys. One of the key reasons behind low attendance rates is lack of security. Parents/families are hesitant to expose children, especially girls, to unsafe situations by sending them to school when they have to travel for long distances and been exposed to the risk of explosions or schools being the target of armed conflict” reminded Erinna Dia, Chief of Education for UNICEF Afghanistan.

One solution that seems to encompass the different challenges is community-based education as it is “a way to address all the challenges not only security wise but also as far as availability of female teachers in school is concerned. As we move up the education system, we noticed that girls have chances remaining at home because parents are uncomfortable having their girls being exposed to male teachers for a long period of time”. An assessment has shown that children graduating from community-based education have equivalent learning as those going to formal schools. It also offers a cost-efficient alternative for families. And it substantially increases female participation (students and teachers) addressing, at the same time, the widespread practice of child marriage and child labor.

Striving for disadvantaged children to reach their full potential while reducing inequality, poverty and child labor, Action for Development works towards giving access to education for street-working children, children with disabilities and encouraging girls enrollment in school, as well as providing adult professional training to women.

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