Afghanistan: Schools Where There Were None
"My village is very poor and there was no school here before," Shameem says during a break. "I always dreamed of going to school. I want to be a doctor or a teacher when I grow up."
The dream of an education is starting to come true for hundreds of thousands of Afghan children. The village school in Nowabad is one of hundreds that have been built recently with the aid of the IRC.
In 2007, the IRC enrolled some 11,000 students in 400 schools, trained over 1,000 teachers and led literacy training for 2,000 adults. Some six million childrenÑmore than ever beforeÑare enrolled in classes. One third of them are girls, whose education had been outlawed during the Taliban era.
But education is still threatened. Teachers are unequipped and schools are often little more than canvas tents. Nearly seven million children, most in remote rural areas, do not attend school at all.
More ominously, the Taliban is making a comeback in several provinces and is targeting schools.
Last year, 130 schools were burned down, 105 teachers and students killed and over 300 schools closed for security reasons.
"We are concerned that such attacks will make it harder for families to send their children to school," says Afghan education minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar.
Atmar, who worked for the IRC before joining the government, says support from the IRC and other foreign donors is crucial.
The IRC has been working in Afghanistan for 25 years, mostly helping returning refugees. Its education program is central to its larger effort to restore this war-ravaged country's economy and social structure.
"It's not clear how long it will be before the government is able to assume full responsibility for education in Afghanistan," says Nicole Walden, the IRC's education and child protection coordinator.
But the IRC continues to help Atmar and his ministry to establish new schools in remote areas that previously had none, part of a five-year program aimed at increasing school enrollment.
"Meanwhile, the international community must ensure that as many children as possible get an education," says Walden.
This story first appeared in the IRC's 2007 Annual Report.