All of Afghanistan’s children must have access to education – UN envoy

Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan

23 April 2008 – While lauding the progress made since 2001 in getting millions of Afghan children, especially girls, into school, UN envoy Kai Eide today reaffirmed the commitment of the world body to helping ensure that every child in the fledgling democracy is able to receive an education.

“Education is a fundamental right for every human being. It fosters dignity, freedom and is vital if we are to enable Afghanistan to mobilize all the resources of its people,” said Mr. Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

During a visit to Amani High School in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Mr. Eide said that Afghanistan can be proud of the tremendous progress that its schools have made under the leadership of the Ministry of Education.

“Before 2001 there were fewer than a million children in school and girls were all but excluded from mainstream education,” he noted. “Today over six million children attend schools and over 330,000 girls started school for the first time this year, unprecedented in Afghanistan’s history.”

The Special Representative’s visit comes during Global Action Week for Education, during which countries all over the world reaffirm their commitment to achieving the “Education for All” goals set by over 160 countries at the 2000 World Education Conference in Dakar, Senegal.

The international campaign, supported by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is focusing this year on “quality education to end exclusion.” Worldwide some 72 million children are excluded from schooling, owing to reasons such as disability, gender, conflict and poverty. In addition, over 700 million adults around the globe remain illiterate.

Earlier this week UNESCO reported that, despite progress in school enrolment in Afghanistan, half of the country’s school-age children are not in school, among them nomadic children, children with disabilities and street children. However, the majority of those who are not receiving an education are girls – an estimated 1.2 million of them.

“We want to see inclusive education for all of Afghanistan’s children. They are the future of this country,” Mr. Eide stated.

UN agencies have been working with the Ministry of Education to address some of the challenges to education in the country. Some 3,000 community-based schools were built last year by the Ministry, with the support of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for over 140,000 children living in remote areas who have limited access to formal schools.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been encouraging poor families to send their children to school through its food-for-school programme which benefited over 2.5 million children last year.


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