Heartbreak and Progress in Afghanistan

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — July 12, 2007 1 min read
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The International Herald Tribune offers a harrowing tale of schooling in Afghanistan. Reporter Barry Bearak opens with a scene out of a war movie—young girls trying to outrun gunmen lurking just outside the Qalai Sayedan School. Bearak says six girls were shot in the June 12 incident; two of them fatally. He cites “tools of intimidation used by the Taliban and others to shut down hundreds of schools here. To take aim at education is to make war on the government. Parents find themselves with terrible choices. ‘It is better for my children to be alive even if it means they must be illiterate,’ ” one father tells the newspaper.

Bearak also cites encouraging statistics about education in Afghanistan: The Ministry of Education there claims that 6.2 million children are now enrolled—or about half the school-aged population. Even so, all progress is made against a backdrop of uncertainty and fear. “By attacking schools, the terrorists want to make the point of their own existence,” Haneef Atmar, the minister of education, tells the Herald Tribune.

Education Week has also reported on the turbulent situation in Afghanistan. In its five-year plan, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education has set a goal of enrolling 60 percent of girls and 75 percent of boys in schools by 2010.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Around the Web blog.