“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.
- Afghanistan has signed the Oslo Safe School Declaration.
- Afghanistan, along with Nigeria, suffered the most frequent number of targeted, fatal attacks against students and educators globally, according to the 2018 Education under Attack report.
- 2.6 million Afghan children are still unable to access primary education, according to UNICEF.
- Current projections outline that it will be impossible for Afghanistan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 target of ensuring all boys and girls can complete primary education by 2030, without serious and immediate remedial action.
- In addition to displacement and attacks on education, long-standing issues affecting access to education in the country include impoverishment, lack of capacity at public schools, corruption, and socio-cultural discrimination of women and girls.
- Displaced families are increasingly dependent on child labor to make ends meet, according to a new study by NRC. Whilst 11 per cent of surveyed children were working whilst in their place of origin, 36 per cent were now working since displacement. Child labour decreased enrolment, attendance and completion rates.
- The same study revealed that many displaced Afghan children have experienced or fear violence at school or on their way to school. 12 per cent of the displaced children surveyed had experienced attacks on their school and 15 per cent experienced shooting very near to their school building. 36 per cent of the children were frightened about risks of kidnap or attack on their way to school.
- A NATO summit will be held on 11 and 12 July 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.
- Afghanistan is among the topics that will be discussed at the summit. “In Afghanistan, NATO is increasing the size of the Resolute Support Mission, with 3,000 more trainers, helping local forces to secure their country. And at the Summit, Allies will confirm NATO’s enduring commitment,” according to the NATO summit guide.
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- Last year, NRC assisted over 100,000 girls, boys, women and men through its Education in Emergencies programmes.
- NRC has piloted the Better Learning Programme (originally developed with the University of Tromsø through pilots in Uganda and Gaza) in Nangarhar Province, adding psychosocial support to the normal education in emergencies programme - and aims to also provide this programme for children in Faryab, Kunduz and Uruzgan provinces.