UN Envoy calls for new, strategic focus on Afghanistan’s education needs

22 Apr 2009

UN Envoy calls for new, strategic focus on Afghanistan’s education needs

KABUL - The UN’s top representative in Afghanistan called today for new and more strategic thinking about the country’s education needs.

Kai Eide, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, told an audience gathered at Kabul’s Amani high school, that Afghanistan’s economic and social development required the Afghan government and the international community to unite behind a broad and long-term educational strategy.

“The need for investment in the infrastructure of school buildings is huge, but let us not only focus on infrastructure. We must give greater attention to human resources, to those who are to fill the school buildings with quality education,” he said.

Education is widely considered among the major successes of rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan in recent years. In 2001 the system was near complete ruin, with almost no girls in schools. Today over 6.2 million children attend schools across the country including 2.2 million girls. There are more than 110,000 primary school teachers, more than 8,500 schools, and a growing number of universities.

“The challenge now is to ensure that our thinking is not fragmented and our action not piecemeal. I fear this critical discussion is absent – it must form part of an integrated strategic thinking,” Eide said.

But there are also obstacles. More than 400,000 children are currently denied the right to education due to the security situation in parts of the country. Attacks on schools by insurgents and others means that 651 schools are currently closed, more than 90 percent of these are in the southern province of Kandahar.

At the same time quality of education varies, with a lack of proper schools buildings, female teachers concentrated in the five major cities, and a paucity of opportunities for vocational and technical training – seven of the 16 technical schools in Afghanistan are based in the capital.

Click here for the full version of the speech

By Dan McNorton, UNAMA