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Editorial: Turbulent times for children

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The uneven history of Afghanistan is a story of decades of internal conflict, corruption, drought,extreme poverty and traditionalism. Dangerous security situation coupled with poverty have made the war-torn country the worst and most dangerous place to be born. The people struggle with poverty and drought. And more than 5.3 million children are in need of humanitarian. Conflict has engendered mass displacement as three times as many people were displaced by conflict in recent few years than years before.

As many as 3.7 million boys and girls are out of school, according to unicef, because of increased violence, poverty and displacement. Roughly one in two school-age children are deprived of school as violence between Afghan forces and the Taliban intensifies and displacements and repatriations multiply. Child labor and child abuse in Afghanistan often suffer from malnutrition and inadequate medical care. The ongoing conflict and worsening security situation– combined with deeply engrained poverty and traditional discrimination – have been an impetus to increased rate of out-of-school children since 2002.

When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment. Every child out of school is one potential war child. Every child we save is one less problem to tackle.

Displacement, child marriage, child labor and restricted access to justicealso drive children away from school. A shortage of female teachers, poor school facilities and insecurity affect quality of education in conflict-stricken regions and minimize children’s chances of going to school.

The year 2018 has been declared as the year of education. Now is the time for a renewed commitment to provide boys and girls with the relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society.

Girls account for 60 per cent of the out-of-school population, putting them at a particular disadvantage, and compounding gender-based discrimination. In the worst-affected provinces – including Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan – up to 85 per cent of girls are not going to school.

To overcome the challenge, early learning opportunities, community-based education and accelerated learning programmes gives families more control over education by organizing classes in community buildings and in some cases inside homes. A continued government undertaking and civil society commitment is needed to address the out-of-school children, especially girls, while recognizing the significance of education in a society where education can literally curb domestic violence and somewhat mainstream conflict. In conservative Afghanistan, especially in provinces with disproportionately high rates of out of school children, the role of religious leaders cannot be ruled out on the path to advocating for increased education, ensuring girls’ learning facilities meet basic security and health standards; recruiting and building the capacity of female teachers; and addressing child marriage.