KUNDUZ -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is helping to provide 13,000 children in seven districts of Badakhshan province with access to pre-school education in classrooms.
The project, which began December 29, is being implemented by the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee with funding from UNICEF, according to Faqir Mohammad Qaderi, the head of the education programme.
"The programme provides nine-month education for 13,000 boys and girls who have not yet been enrolled in [elementary] schools in Jurm, Warduj, Darayim, Kohistan, Raghistan, Yawan and Yaftal-i-Payaan districts of Badakhshan," he said.
The programme enrolled students based on their distance to schools, covering each boy with 5km and each girl within 3km, according to Qaderi.
"Children under the age of seven have been enrolled under the programme, and 508 teachers, recruited by the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee, run these classes," he added.
"Teachers have undergone a 14-day training delivered by professional trainers in various areas such as methodology, students' motivation, preparation of a school curriculum, natural disaster preparedness and first aid," he said.
Such training programmes are extremely effective in overcoming the prevailing socio-economic challenges of the people of Badakhshan, difficult terrain, road closures and other issues, said Qaderi.
The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee last October also provided a two-month remedial course for 62,500 students from 125 local schools in Badakhshan's capital and several districts who had fallen behind because of recent political changes and the spread of the coronavirus in the country, according to Qaderi.
Both parents of students and teachers who were previously unpaid or laid off say they are excited for the programme.
"My daughter was very enthusiastic about going to school, and I have decided to enroll her ... Now that they are delivering a pre-school education to the children, I am so happy to see my daughter is one of them," said Moqtader Haqbeen, the father of six-year-old Sameera and a resident of Jurm district.
The pre-school classes help children better prepare for the start of their primary education, he said.
"I have two other daughters, one in ninth and the other in the 11th grade, but unfortunately they have been deprived of continuing their education by the recent change in the government," Haqbeen added.
"The programme officially started on December 31, 2021, in the district, and I am expecting to receive a monthly salary of 6,000 AFN," Nazar Beg Begzad, a teacher in Darayim district, told Salaam Times.
"The programme helps teachers who have either lost their jobs or not received their salaries as a result of the recent political changes."
"Moreover, we are conducting pre-school for children who are preparing to be enrolled in schools," he added.
The education is free, and the children selected for the programme live near local schools, he said.
The programme comes as middle schools and high schools have been closed for girls following the fall of the previous government in August, leaving millions of young Afghans out of school.
"We will fight the darkness and the ignorance. Seeking education is our right," said Alia Siddiqi, a 10th grade student at the Al-Jehad girls' school in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.
"Our studies have been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years. Furthermore, with the recent change in the government, we are suffering deeply and unnecessarily falling behind in our education for another year," she added.
"Afghanistan needs educated youth. The current government must not hamper the education of the youth so that they can play an active role in the development, reconstruction and growth of the country," Siddiqi said.
Seeking education is an obligation for both men and women and there should not be any obstacles to or restrictions on obtaining it, said Mawlawi Sayed Afzal Aslami, a religious scholar in Faizabad.
"In Islam, reading and writing are obligatory for men and women. The more our children and youth are educated, the more prosperous and bright the future of our country," he added.
"We must have doctors, engineers, teachers, judges, prosecutors, etc. in our society. If our youth are deprived of pursuing their education, we can obviously expect no more than a bleak future," Aslami said.