AFGHANISTAN: Girls miss out on full education
KABUL, 23 February 2007 (IRIN) -
Eighteen-year-old Diba is from northeastern Kunduz
province, where she could be in her first year of
high-school. Instead, her father has forced her to
stop her education.
“I love the white head scarf and black uniform of
school, but unfortunately my father hates them,” Diba
sighed, while washing dishes in the family home. “When
I hear the sound of the school bell, I become very
Diba is one of thousands of young Afghan girls who
are deprived of a full education in Afghanistan. There
are many reasons why families do not allow their
daughters to continue their education after finishing
secondary school: some are concerned about security,
but some girls are forced to leave school due to
discriminatory traditions, or because they are married
off by their families.
A recent report by the international NGO, OXFAM,
says more than 110,000 girls attended secondary
schools last year, but just one third of those went on
to complete their education.
“I don’t let my daughter go to high-school because
we have a conservative society. Nobody allows his
daughters to continue their schooling after class 4 or
5 [roughly age 11 or 12],” said Diba’s father [he
declined to give his name] adding: “If I let my
daughter to go to school … then my relatives will say
bad things about me.”
He maintained that girls should work in the family
home, and should not study or work outside the home.
Zahra Ghafori was Diba’s classmate in school, and
she says that Diba was a clever student, coming fourth
in her class: “She was very intelligent and she wanted
to become a doctor.”
Diba used to attend Bibi Fatuma-tu-Zahra, one of
the larger high-schools in Kunduz province. Asila
Barakzai, principal of the school, said that last year
more than 1,100 girls had attended the school, but
only around 500 of them went to further education.
“Mostly during the classes of 7, 8 or 9 [ages 13 to
15], people stop sending their daughters to school
because they become adult during this time,” Barakzai
Diba’s mother studied until class 11 [age 17]. She
would like her daughter to become a doctor, but she
has failed to convince her husband. “Every night I
talk to her father to let her go, but he doesn’t
accept. She always cries and asks me to talk to her
father,” she added.
At the beginning of 2006, the Afghan government and
the international community met in London to decide
what the country should achieve by the end of 2010.
One goal is that the number of women attending
universities should be increased to 35,000.
According to the Afghan Ministry of Higher
Education (MoHE), currently, 40,000 students go to
university; about 10,000 of those are women. The girls
must sit an entrance exam in order to go on to
The Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE) says it can
build enough new schools. But as long as families
refuse to allow their daughters to continue their
education, building schools will only be a part of the
Scherezad Latif, education specialist at the World
Bank in Kabul, said they were just starting to deal
with the cultural constraints affecting female
education in Afghanistan.
“We are still new at this; we need to test out
pilot interventions and how to get more girls into
school,” Latif added, saying that for now they are
trying community-based schools.
Meanwhile, for Diba, the solution appears a long
way off. However, she has not given up her wishes: “I
hope one day I can make my father satisfied to let me
start my school again.”
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
information service, but may not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]