Afghanistan: Education In Conflict

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International Aid for Afghanistan Education After 2001


Global Literacy Rates. Credit – UN Human Development Report 2011

‘You don’t need to spend that much money to have an impact, you just need to spend it well. It’s not rocket science.’ (Vice News, 2014)

The Taliban’s prohibition of schooling for girls and of employment for women as teachers resulted in a dramatic decline in education for girls as well as boys, and created a backlash amongst many sectors within the Afghan society. Afghanistan in 1996 had the highest illiteracy rate in Asia, for both men and women (Help the Afghan Children).

The events of America entering Afghanistan after 9/11/2001 have brought about sweeping changes and daunting challenges in Afghanistan. Thanks in part to the significant advocacy efforts of some key international entities with mandates to support education and child protection, global awareness has been raised on the gravity of the situation, with new initiatives to monitor attacks against schools in support of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 of July 2005.

By 2006, the results of US efforts to rebuild internal security in Afghanistan are mixed (Jones, Oliker, Chalk, Lal & Dobbins, 2006). Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, US assistance has somewhat improved the accountability and human rights practices of Afghan police forces. However, US assistance did not improve their effectiveness. The improved accountability are likely to arise only in post-conflict and transitioning environments, and they require substantial efforts from external donors.

Since US and German training and assistance did not improve the effectiveness of Afghan police and other internal security forces in dealing with security threat, the researchers gave suggestions accordingly. The first front should be to increase efforts to remove warlords and regional commanders from power. The second front should be to encourage greater reform of Afghanistan’s justice system. The third front should be to seek justice for victims and perpetrators of past human rights abuses.

However, until 2011, limited analysis had been conducted on the practical aspects of program implementation including Education for All campaign and the Millennium Development Goals. In response, Harmer, Stoddard, & DiDomenico (2011)focused on the delivery of education assistance in the midst of conflict and specifically on the role played by international aid providers, and the practical challenger, risks, and opportunities they face. Aiding education in conflict is a complex and politically charged endeavor for aid workers.

1)   Often associated with the state and the “state-building” project, it can strain the ability of aid workers to maintain the perception of neutrality and impartiality.

2)   It is potentially dangerous, particularly in contexts where extremist groups are conducting systematic attacks against school infrastructure, teachers, and students, which has been identified in Afghanistan since 2006.

High risk environment

High Risk Environment. Credit – The Daily Beast

3)   Aid agencies have adopted some innovative approaches to programming and managing security risks. These include: investing in low-profile, community-based education as means to ensure that the aid agency’s staff are accepted and also to protect schools and beneficiaries. The acceptance approach to security management appears to be vital in education programming in these particular risk environments. Agencies also rely significantly on local staff to deliver operations, with international staff managing many programs remotely. Historically the management of security risks has been undertaken at the agency level or at the inter-agency level where there are shared geographical interests, but it has not been taken up as effectively at the sectoral level. A considerable opportunity exists to invest in guidance on how to manage education programming in high-risk environments more effectively and securely both for the students and staff, and for the wider protection efforts that the sector has the ability to influence.

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How the Sector Operates Collectively. Credit- Jianguo Chen

Forces of social reproduction and the mix of continuity and change in Afghanistan are strongly mediated by family, qawm, and community. An increasing number of youth in Afghanistan seek higher education, which is seen by mean to be the only solution- the only means of self-improvement and way to position oneself to serve society (Holland & Yousofi, 2014). There is considerable belief among aspiring youth that the future aiding projects is unlikely to wane but will instead continue and increase. It is believed that a momentum for change has come solidly to those aspiring youth, backed by their families and communities, seeking a brighter future for themselves and their country as well.


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