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Human Rights Watch urges that access to education be used as
a key benchmark to measure the success of Afghan and international efforts to
bring security to Afghanistan.
We suggest this benchmark for three reasons:
- on a political level, because teachers and schools are
typically the most basic level of government and the most common point of
interaction between ordinary Afghans and their government (and its foreign
- on a practical level, because this benchmark lends itself
to diagnostic, nationally comparable data analysis (the number of
operational schools, the number of students, the enrollment of girls)
focused on outcomes instead of the number of troops or vague references to
providing security; and,
- on a policy level, because providing education to a new
generation of Afghans is essential to the countrys long-term development.
Using this benchmark and placing the well-being of the
Afghan people at the center of the security policy in Afghanistan will help implement policies that respond to and strengthen the inextricable
link between development and security.
Recommendations to the Taliban, Hezb-e Islami, and other
- Immediately stop all attacks on civilians and civilian
objects, including teachers, students, and their schools.
- Cease all threats against teachers and students, such as
through the use of night letters.
- Publicly declare an end to such attacks and threats.
- Provide and facilitate safe, rapid, and unimpeded access
to impartial humanitarian assistance to civilians in need.
Recommendations regarding the impact of insecurity on
Notwithstanding the responsibility of those groups attacking
teachers, students and schools, it is the duty of the government of Afghanistan
and its international supporters to ensure that Afghans receive an adequate and
- The government of Afghanistan and the coordinating body of
the Afghanistan Compact should make access to education a benchmark for
measuring compliance with the Compact, which sets out security as one of
the three pillars of activity for the next five years.
- The government, with the assistance of the international
community, should devise and implement a strategy to monitor, prevent, and
respond to attacks on education. An effective strategy will require
coordinated action by diverse institutions, and, to this end, the
government should craft a process that involves all relevant institutions
from the start, including the presidents office; the ministries of
interior, justice, womens affairs; the Afghan National Army; the Afghan
National Police; the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission; UNAMA;
UNICEF; UNDP; UNIFEM; ISAF; and the Combined Forces Command Afghanistan
(CFC-A). The strategy should include the following elements:
- The Ministry of Education and international agencies
responsible for education should cooperate to create a national database
with accurate, up-to-date information collected from provincial education
offices, U.N. bodies, NGOs, PRTs, donor agencies, and other sources about
attacks on educational staff and facilities, the status of schools,
school attendance, and the long-term impact of attacks on education.
Monitoring should pay special attention to attacks on girls schools and
the effects of attacks on girls education.
- UNAMA and relevant U.N. agencies, including UNICEF and the
WFP, should share information with each other about attacks on schools.
- The government, including the Afghan Independent Human
Rights Commission, and donors should continue to follow and denounce
attacks that undermine the right to education.
- Using information gained from monitoring, the government
and international donors should identify schools at greatest risk of
attack and ensure that they receive resources and protection accordingly.
This should also involve:
- identifying a list of risk factors, such as night
letters being circulated and a school being the only sign of government
in the area, and monitoring for these factors;
- communicating with parents and students more accurate
information about security threats so that they are not forced to rely
on rumor and incomplete information.
- The government and donors should identify and implement
measures that make education safer for students and teachers. These could
include providing transport to school, enhancing security of routes
children and teachers use to get to schools, constructing secure
buildings and school walls, and providing appropriately trained school
- The government and international donors should work with
local communities to mobilize and support community protection efforts.
These could draw on measures already taken by some communities, such as
rotating volunteer night watchmen, placing monitors along roads at times
children go to and from schools, and seeking commitments from community
leaders to support and protect education.
- Provincial and district department of education should
work with NGO educational providers to create local contingency plans for
addressing threats to schools in medium and high risk districts.
Information about these plans should be provided to teachers and families
with school-age children.
- The Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police
should prioritize the protection of educational facilities and staff,
while ensuring that school security remains the responsibility of
Responding to Attacks
- The ministries of interior and justice, and other
relevant Afghan security services, should work closely with the Ministry
of Education, NGOs, and the international community to better respond to
cases of attacks, threats, and intimidation against teachers, students, and
schools. This should include full investigations and the prosecution of
perpetrators in accordance with international standards. The Ministry of
Interior should investigate all those implicated in such attacks,
including local military authorities, civilian officials and those
associated with them, and powerful individuals and groups with
connections to officials who may be involved in attacks and threats in
- The Afghan government should enact legislation
implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
to render war crimes, including attacks intentionally directed against
buildings dedicated to education, violations of Afghan law.
- The Ministry of Education and its international funders
should establish an emergency fund to immediately rebuild damaged schools
and to work with local communities that have been subject to attack to
increase security and boost the confidence of parents and community
leaders to send children to school. UNICEF should continue its policy of providing
tents to destroyed schools and improve its capacity for rapid response
(which will require improved monitoring of attacks).
- Provincial and district departments of education should
work with NGO educational providers to minimize interruptions to the
educational process following an attack, such as reopening schools
quickly and finding alternative venues.
- In order to focus on providing development more broadly to
insecure areas, including the south and southeast, and to better
coordinate development plans for these areas, international donors, the
Afghan government, the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations
should consider holding regular meetings to discuss these goals and come
up with a plan and timetable to reach them.
Recommendations regarding education generally
- Education in Afghanistan remains almost entirely dependent
on foreign assistance. The overall amount of foreign assistance to
Afghanistan has been far less than that disbursed in several recent
post-conflict areas and far less than Afghanistan needs, according to the
World Bank and the Afghan government. International donors should increase
support for construction schools and establishing other acceptable
learning spaces, and for programs geared toward improving the quality of
education, including teacher training, with the goal of providing girls
and boys with equal access to schools.
- Basic information about the educational system in
Afghanistan remains highly inadequate. Such information is vital for
creating effective education policies generally, and for crafting
responses to attacks on the educational system. The recent EMIS data are
an important first step. The Ministry of Education should disaggregate
this information by sex and region, and it should at minimum include:
- numbers, locations, and condition of infrastructure of
schools and other learning spaces; whether they are, in practice, for
girls or boys or are coed; and whether there is other government
infrastructure in the community;
- all areas where girls and boys, or girls alone, have no
access to education and areas where girls have no access to secondary
- childrens school attendance and drop-out rates (as
compared with enrollment);
- numbers and locations of teachers, especially female
- Measure progress on education in Afghanistan on a
national, provincial, and district basis, and not on national level
Recommendations regarding improving girls and womens
access to education
The Ministry of Education, in coordination with the Ministry
of Interior, the Ministry of Womens Affairs, the President, and their
international partners, should better address girls problems in attending
school. This will require leadership and political will at the highest levels
and accountability at the provincial and district levels.
- The Ministry of Education should make equal access for
girls and women a priority at all educational levelsnot only at the
primary level. Among other things it should:
- Condition the creation of new schools on equal access for
girls in each area. Where girls and boys are offered different forms of
education, such as in madrassas and home-based schools, the ministry
should ensure that girls and boys have equal access to formal education
- Become a more public advocate for education, especially
- Require teachers and administrators, as well as other
government officials, to educate their own children, regardless of
gender, as a condition of employment.
- The government, with the international communitys
support, should continue and enhance efforts to increase girls attendance
at all educational levels, including:
- prioritizing work in communities with low or zero girls
participation in education;
- implementing programs targeted at increasing girls
attendance, such as WFPs food incentives program, which provides basic
foodstuffs to families who send their daughters to school; and
- initiating a public awareness campaign on the economic,
social, and public health benefits that accrue from girls education.
- The Ministry of Education should do more to increase the
number of female teachers, especially in rural areas. For example, it
should consider developing more flexible programs to accredit women
teachers, including those trained outside of the country. It should
address limits in womens access to teacher training programs, for
example, by providing where possible safe residences at teacher training
- The Ministry of Education should work with local
communities to overcome local barriers that prevent children, and girls in
particular, from attending school. For example, the ministry should
identify whether schools are available, safe, and acceptable to local
cultural sensitivities; whether routes are safe; whether transportation is
available; and whether individuals in the community are blocking girls
access. The ministry should hold provincial and district officials
accountable for improving access for all children in their districts
and provinces and reward those who do.
- The Ministry of Education should drastically increase the
representation of women in the ministry at the national, provincial, and
- President Karzai should remove any appointed leaders who
oppose girls education, including governors, police chiefs, cabinet
ministers, and education officials.
- The Council of Ulema, the highest religious authority in
Afghanistan, should publicly state that it supports girls education at
- The Ministry of Education should widely publicize and
enforce the 2004 presidential decree lifting the prohibition against
married girls and women attending school.
- The Afghan government should make greater efforts to
discourage under-age marriage, which results in many girls being withdrawn
from school. Efforts should include publicizing laws on the minimum age of
- The government of Afghanistan should ratify the Convention
against Discrimination in Education, which sets criteria and standards for
girls and womens right to a non-discriminatory education.
- The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Education, who expressed
concern about the systemic targeting of schools on April 16, 2006, should
visit Afghanistan and raise with international actors and the Afghan
government concerns about the continued gap between girls and boys access
to education, problems created by insecurity, and their disproportionate
impact on girls.
Recommendations regarding international military,
peacekeeping, and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan
- ISAF, contributing states to the U.S.-led Coalition, and
UNAMA should assess whether current force configurations are sufficient to
provide security to the civilian population, as set out in the first
pillar of the Afghanistan Compact.
- ISAF and the U.S.-led Coalition should measure security
not by numbers of troops or the presence of armed groups, but rather by
the security needs of ordinary people: whether conditions are sufficiently
secure for people to conduct their lives. Measurements could include the
number of operational schools and clinics, open roads, and distances that
are safe to travel.
- All PRTs should improve national-level coordination among
themselves and with Afghan authorities, the United Nations, and local
communities. PRTs should improve communication with national and
international NGOs. This coordination, as well as work with local
communities, will be especially important to ensure that PRTs take all
possible action to improve security for students, teachers, and schools.
- All PRTs should establish transparent benchmarks that
include access to education for evaluating security in their areas of
- Countries contributing troops and staff to PRTs should
ensure that their mandates and rules of engagement specifically include
protection of the civilian population.
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights should
substantially increase its human rights monitoring presence around the
country to act as a deterrent and expand the information gathered on
abuses. The United Nations should hire sufficient human rights monitoring
and protection staff to reliably cover all areas of Afghanistan, as well
as address specific concerns, such as abuses against women and minority
groups. The current number of monitors outside the capital, sixteen
positions (some vacant), is insufficient. UNAMA should press for responses
from regional leaders regarding human rights abuses and should regularly
publicize its findings and recommendations for appropriate government