Without School, There Is No Summer Break
June in the U.S. signals the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. Millions of students dread year end exams and papers with their summer plans for camp, travel and play just on the other side of hours of studying. Some of us love going to school, some of us do not, but the reality is we are fortunate that we have access to education and the structure, systems, and opportunities education provides.
Many people throughout the world, especially women, are not so fortunate. In Afghanistan, only 26% of the total population is literate, meaning that over 9.5 million people cannot read the sentence you just did. Exact numbers are difficult to know, but estimates put only 12% of women literate as of 2000 but 25% are estimated to be literate as of 2015, still one of the lowest in the world (1,2).
Women in Afghanistan face numerous barriers to education. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the mid 1990s, and since 1998, girls over eight years old have been forbidden from attending school and women were banned from working. The result? Nearly 70% of Afghan teachers don’t have the required level to be teachers as a result of the Taliban’s ban of women from education and the work place (3). An entire generation of Afghan women has been crippled, “ensuring that they would sink deeper into poverty and would have none of the skills needed to function in modern society (4).
If they are able to attend school, girls on average will only complete seven years of education for several reasons. The median age of women in Afghanistan is 18 and the average age of a mother at the birth of her first child is 20. She is then likely to have four or five more children and the responsibilities of marriage, children and the home force women to leave their education (5,6). Girls in rural areas where education is not a priority, have even less access to English, computer and entrance exam skills, subsequently diminishing their ability to attend higher education (7).
Another crippling barrier to women’s education in Afghanistan is the infrastructure itself. The lack of buildings and space allocated to educational facilities for women combined with security risks, create an environment that prevents most women from obtaining even a basic education. There simply aren’t schools for girls. Of the schools that exist for girls, 50% do not have buildings! They also lack other necessities such as supplies, books, assistant teaching materials etc… (8).
work or home duties. In Afghanistan, over 36% of the population lives below the poverty line, and dire poverty disables families from paying even the lowest cost of education (9).
Education is a powerful tool. It is why those in power often deny it of those they wish to oppress. Education creates understanding, thought, and action. ARZU works to inspire each of those within in Afghan women, and so all women who work with ARZU are provided the opportunity to receive basic education, literacy, English and computer courses. In a country where less than a quarter of the population are literate, 100% of ARZU’s women weavers are literate. They can read the prices of items at the market, they can teach their children, and they can be more independent.
Education is power. Be a part of the change. Support ARZU.