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80% of secondary school girls in Afghanistan missing out on education, one month since Taliban ban extended

KABUL, 21 April 2022 – Almost a month since the Taliban extended the ban on secondary school girls attending classes, almost 80% of girls have been denied their right to education in provinces in Afghanistan where secondary schools have remained closed for girls, Save the Children said.  

A new analysis by Save the Children, UNICEF and its Education Cluster partners has assessed who has returned to school in the past month across Afghanistan. The report shows the majority of secondary school girls – about 850,000 out of 1.1 million – are not attending classes. 

Save the Children Afghanistan’s Acting Asia Regional Director, Olivier Franchi, said:

“Girls were absolutely shattered last month when they arrived at classes – excited for the new school year – and were told to go home. Since then, Save the Children has spoken with girls who say they are depressed and heartbroken at being denied their fundamental right to learn.  

“Education is a lifeline for all children, especially girls. Without it, they are at increased risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation, including early marriage. For the sake of girls’ survival in Afghanistan and for the future of the country, Save the Children is calling on the Taliban to immediately allow girls of all ages to return to school. There is no issue administrative, logistical or otherwise that can possibly justify the continuation of a policy that denies girls access to their education.  

“The international community also has an essential role to play and must continue to provide funding to support and protect girls who are still in school. The education system in Afghanistan is hanging by a thread and now is not the time to back away.” 

Parvana*, 14, from Kabul province, is in grade seven. She hasn’t been able to attend formal schooling due to fears of violence but has instead been attending Save the Children-run community-based education classes. Parvana said: 

“When my brother was going to school and I couldn’t previously, I felt awful. All I wanted was to go to school, to study, to become someone in the future and make my family and the people from this area proud. 

“Education is not only important for girls, but everyone should be educated. No one is born to stay at home. We are born to work hard, study and reach our goals.” 

Shukuria*, 28, is from a southern province of Afghanistan and was married at the age of 17  to a man 35 years her senior and is now a mother to five children. Shukuria’s husband can no longer work and her eldest son, who is 12, works in a car repair shop to help the family make ends meet.  

Shukuria missed out on school as a girl and, without any education, she has struggled to get a job to provide for her children and husband. At the age of 25, she decided to get an education and is now supported by Save the Children’s girls education classes. Shukuria said:  

“People were scared when the transition of power happened, as they were not allowing many girls to go to education facilities. Even if they were allowed, girls were too scared to go to class.  

“These (Save the Children) classes can help girls left behind in their studies. Education is the most important thing in life. For my children, I hope they study and improve and get to live their dreams. For myself, I hope to become a good teacher and to serve the students of this society.” 

It’s estimated that almost 8 million school-aged children need support to access education right now in Afghanistan - an increase from 2.6 million[i][i] compared to last year.[ii][ii] Insecurity, poverty, cultural traditions, poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials and a lack of qualified female and male teachers are continuing barriers to children accessing education. 

To ensure children have still had access education during the last eight months, Save the Children has been running Community-Based Education classes and providing children and teachers with learning and classroom kits. The organisation has also been working with female secondary school graduates to support them to become teachers and to pass the university entrance exam.  

[1][1] 2.6 million children needed education in emergencies assistance in 2021 – HNO 2021  

[1][1] 7.9 million children will need education in emergencies assistance in 2022 - HRP


Notes to editors:

Content available:

  • The new analysis by Save the Children, UNICEF and its Education Cluster partners is based on a real-time back-to-school monitoring system to generate evidence at the school level to better understand the situation in terms of who (teachers and students) are back in school, at both primary and secondary level, and where boys and girls have been able to return. The information gathered is not representative of every district across every province, however, it provides a good sense of the overall situation across provinces and an initial idea of access to education at local levels.  
  • *Names changed to protect identities  

For further enquiries please contact our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 7831 650409