Gains made in safe education for Afghan children under threat

Published 10. Jul 2018
An increasing number of attacks on schools and lack of investment in education is jeopardising the future of Afghan children, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“The war in Afghanistan is taking its toll on a generation of children. Attacks on schools and students, lack of class-rooms and teachers, impoverishment, child labour and traumas among children jeopardise any gains made in Afghanistan and threatens the future of the country,” said Head of Programme for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Afghanistan Will Carter.

Improvements within the education sector has by NATO countries been hailed as one of the achievements of the intervention in Afghanistan. Ahead of this week’s NATO summit, NRC calls for countries that have been involved in the war, to scale up humanitarian support to education, including psychosocial support, for displaced children. So far, only 12.5 per cent of the funding needed for education support in areas affected by crisis has been provided.

“NATO countries have spent billions on the war in Afghanistan. It is therefore utterly incomprehensible that the same countries are unwilling to provide the little funding needed to support children affected by the war, especially when taking into account how important this investment is for the long-term stability of the country,” said Carter.

“Any country that truly cares about the future of Afghanistan, should urgently step up their investment in Afghan children,” he added.

In total, 2.6 million Afghan children are out of school, according to UNICEF. Poverty, child labour and lack of capacity at already overwhelmed public schools deprive many children of their right to education, with displaced children being particularly at risk. It will be impossible for Afghanistan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring all boys and girls can complete primary education by 2030, without serious and immediate remedial action.

A worsening security situation in many parts of the country and an increasing number of attacks on schools and students are further threatening Afghan children’s future. Most recently, on 1 July 2018, an attack on a school in Khogyani District, Nangarhar, where NRC was supporting schooling for over a hundred Afghan displaced children, resulted in the killing of three staff and destruction of the school building. This attack followed a spike in the number of attacks on students, teachers and educational facilities in the province in June.

“Many Afghan boys and girls have experienced or are experiencing violence that children should never have to witness. They need support to be able to deal with their fears and traumas, and children must be protected against attacks both on their way to school and at school,” said Carter.

Exposure to continuous risk, violence and conflict has had a significant impact on Afghan children’s psychosocial health. 55 per cent of the respondents in a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council cite psycho-social health needs as the biggest challenge for displaced Afghan children. Nightmares, flashbacks, physical pain, nausea, fainting, difficulty concentrating or socialising, and strong emotional responses such as frequent crying or anger were all common, according to the study, where more than a thousand displaced children, parents and teachers were surveyed.