The impressive progress the government and its donors have made in getting girls to attend school was a good beginning, not a completed task.
This report examines the major barriers that remain in the quest to get all girls into school, and keep them there through secondary school.
Analysis by the World Bank shows wide variation from province to province in the ratio of girls versus boys attending school, with the proportion of students who are girls falling in some provinces, such as Kandahar and Paktia.
These disparities are mirrored in literacy statistics.
So when Taliban rule collapsed in late 2001, the new government and the countries that had joined the US-led coalition faced two critical challenges: how to re-establish an education system for half the school-age population in a desperately poor country, and how to help girls and women who had been kept from getting an education during Taliban rule catch up on what they had been deprived.
The new Afghan government under then-President Hamid Karzai and its international donors approached these tasks with energy and resources.
The government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), with donor support, built schools, hired and trained teachers, and reached out to girls and their families to encourage them to attend school.
The actual number of girls who, over time, went to school is disputed, but there is broad agreement that since 2001 millions of girls who would not have received any education under the Taliban now have had some schooling. Even according to the most optimistic figures regarding girls’ participation in education, there are millions of girls who never went to school, and many more who went to school only briefly.
In January 2016 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 40 percent of all school-age children in Afghanistan do not attend school.Currently, as the overall security situation in the country worsens, schools close, and donors disengage, there are indications that access to education for girls in some parts of Afghanistan is in decline.Despite the overall progress, Afghanistan’s provision of education still discriminates against women by providing fewer schools accessible to girls, and by failing to take adequate measures to remedy the disparity in educational participation between girls and boys.A 2015 Afghan government report stated that more than 8 million children were in school, 39 percent of whom were girls.In December 2016, the minister of education announced that the real number of children in school was 6 million.