Education for girls: The key to Afghanistan's development

By Shafiqullah Waak / March 3, 2009
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) 

One woman in the province of Nangarhar has dedicated her life to teaching women in Afghanistan and is following in the footsteps of a family tradition of teachers.

"If we want Afghanistan to be a prosperous country we should make sure Afghan women are fully engaged in the development process of the country," said Zarghona, 53, who has worked as a teacher for 35 years. "A country destroyed by decades of civil war will not stand on its own feet if half of its population, women, are inactive. Hence women and girls need to be educated."

The adult female literacy rate in Afghanistan is estimated to be 18 per cent.

Zarghona is just one Afghan woman who has dedicated her life to educating Afghan girls. For her teaching is a family business. Her father was a teacher at the Kabul Military School and her husband is a University Professor in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar.

In her 35 years career, she has never stopped teaching. Even during the Taliban regime when girls were banned from attending school, she used to teach girls secretly.

"I was caught by the Taliban and beaten for teaching girls," remembered Zarghona. "While conducting classes we always had a contingency plan in case the Taliban raided our secret school."

At Nangarhar University there are many female students who attended Zarghona's "secret school" during the Taliban regime.

In 2007 Zarghona went to the United States of America where she briefed American colleagues about education in Afghanistan and learnt how schools are operating in the U.S..

"It was a valuable experience and I use some of the methodologies I learnt from my American colleagues in my classes," said Zarghona.

"The Provincial Education Department and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) help us with the teaching materials, teacher trainings and books," said Zarghona.

More than six million children have enrolled in school since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, 35 per cent of them girls.

Building new schools, providing new teaching materials for teachers and students, conducting teacher trainings, establishing literacy courses for both men and women are all part of UNICEF's efforts to help the education sector in Afghanistan.

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