Education

UNICEF funds pre-school education for 13,000 children in Badakhshan

By Muhammad Qasem

In this undated photo students study at an open area in Darayim district, Badakhshan province. [Mehrabuddin Walizada]

In this undated photo students study at an open area in Darayim district, Badakhshan province. [Mehrabuddin Walizada]

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.

New opportunities

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.

Fighting ignorance

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.

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Despite a series of exciting efforts, the level of education remains a significant challenge. Schools do not have access to much-needed facilities ranging from drinking water and toilets to libraries and scientific laboratories. Most of the students are still studying without textbooks. Most of them are taking lessons from the teachers while the fate of their post-secondary education is uncertain. Classrooms are crowded, and students study at different times of the day. In some areas, girls 'schools do not exist, and the lack of peace has had a devastating effect, especially on girls' access to education. The Government and people of Canada see the need for Afghanistan's education sector to stand on its own feet as part of a long-term commitment. The strongest possible response to the war and the most significant investment in Afghanistan's stability, peace, development, and poverty alleviation are involved in this area.

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Afghanistan is one of the countries with the lowest literacy rates globally and faces significant challenges in the education sector that adversely affect its basic development goals. For many years, the Taliban have oppressed the human rights of women and girls in education in many areas of the country. The catastrophe that preceded it was exacerbated by the lack of basic education facilities, a shortage of trained teachers, educated people, and widespread poverty. Although most of these challenges still exist, extensive progress has been made. The most significant development is that girls go back to school and the number has steadily increased. The international community is working with the Afghan government to build more schools and improve the education system. It should be done slowly but surely. to be continued

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Stopping the process of education and higher education even for one day leads to years of backwardness for the country's future and avoids significant progress. It is essential to prioritize the educational process first and foremost so that no child is left out of school and no youth is left out of university. The main reason for the countries' progress is the opening of doors of education centers for girls and boys and providing the opportunities by relevant authorities. Schools and universities must be open, and teachers and lecturers at universities should be paid as usual. The salaries currently paid to a teacher and a university lecturer cannot support life, and their problems cannot be solved.

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Under no circumstances should teaching and learning be stopped. Education should be made possible for students to learn in rain and wind, storms and typhoons, and hot and cold seasons. In addition, the teachers' salaries need to be increased. A teacher cannot do anything with 6,000 afghanis. Will they buy flour or cooking oil, fuel, salt, or sugar? If housing rent, electricity, and water bills are all collected, for an Afghan family usually having more than five members, the salary should be at least 20,000 AFN. Twenty-five thousand but more, because then a teacher will not have to worry about home expenses and will be able to provide teaching materials for his students and teach well comfortably.

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