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Project June 24, 2009

Education in Afghanistan: Opportunity in Peril


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If a strong educational system is key to a country's success, there is every reason to worry about Afghanistan's future. Decimated by decades of war, Afghanistan has one of the world's lowest literacy rates. According to UN estimates, 90% of women, and 63% of men in rural areas are illiterate. With most Afghans living in rural villages, improving these numbers is a daunting challenge. With limited infrastructure, and rampant corruption at the provincial level, efforts to bolster Afghanistan's educational system are facing a number of challenges.

Teachers in many of the country's provinces frequently go unpaid, with many claiming local political leaders are stealing their salaries. Textbooks donated by foreign countries sit in warehouses rather than being distributed, and with a weak and still developing central government, little can be done to alleviate such problems. Adding to the difficulties are long-standing cultural mores, and a lack of security in much of the country. A number of schools built after the fall of the Taliban have already been destroyed, both by the Taliban and its sympathetic followers.

Many families will not allow their daughters to be taught by male teachers, and the Taliban, who barred girls from attending school during their time in power, recently announced plans to increase the number of acid attacks on girls attending schools throughout the country. How the Afghan government resolves these difficulties will be key to the country's long-term success and stability.