Aid group: Only 35 percent of students enrolled in Afghanistan are girls
By ALISA TANG
Associated Press / April 21, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – Only 35 percent of the students in Afghanistan’s schools are girls, and while overall enrollment is increasing, the percentage of female students is not, an aid group said Monday.
A shortage of female teachers, a number of boys-only schools and cultural barriers are factors keeping girls out of school, the group Care International said.
The education of girls in post-Taliban Afghanistan is held as an example of success by Afghan and Western officials. During Taliban rule, which ended after a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, girls were banned from going to school, and only about 1 million boys attended classes.
Citing data from the Education Ministry, Care said 35 percent of the 5.4 million Afghan children now enrolled in schools are girls. It is unclear what percent of all children attend school, since Afghanistan has not had a census in decades.
Care said more than a third of the country’s 9,062 schools are exclusively for boys. It said 28 percent of Afghan teachers are female, with most working in urban areas.
“This inhibits girls’ participation in education, as parents are reluctant to have teenage girls being taught by a male teacher,” Care said in a statement. “Likewise, parents are hesitant to send their girls to schools if they are far from their homes.”
As a result, “despite an overall increase in numbers of enrolled children, the percentage of female students is not increasing,” it said.
Jamie Terzi, assistant country director for Care in Afghanistan, said Islamic teachings might persuade parents to let their girls go to school.
“One way to increase female enrollment is to discuss the importance of education under Islam with girls’ parents,” she said.
Care said community-based education projects need to focus on girls, and existing schools should be open to all students.
“Simple steps, such as discussions with village shuras (councils), mullahs, and parents can lead to changes in the name of a school, include a wall or an alternate schedule for boys and girls,” Terzi said, noting that girls and boys could then go to the same school but still be taught separately in accordance with cultural practices.
Care, in cooperation with other aid groups, is providing community-based education to 45,000 children _ two-thirds of them girls _ in remote areas of 17 provinces where there are no Education Ministry schools.