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VII. Recommendations

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 supporters);
  • 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 country’s 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 armed groups

  • 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 education

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 non-discriminatory education.

  • 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 president’s office; the ministries of interior, justice, women’s 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:

Monitoring Attacks

    • 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 guards.
    • 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 civilian authorities.

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 some provinces.
    • 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 education;
      • children’s school attendance and drop-out rates (as compared with enrollment);
      • numbers and locations of teachers, especially female teachers.
    • Measure progress on education in Afghanistan on a national, provincial, and district basis, and not on national level numbers alone.

    Recommendations regarding improving girls’ and women’s access to education

    The Ministry of Education, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Women’s 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 levels—not 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 credentials.
      • Become a more public advocate for education, especially for girls.
      • 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 community’s 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 WFP’s 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 women’s access to teacher training programs, for example, by providing where possible safe residences at teacher training institutes.
    • 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 district levels.
    • 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 all levels.
    • 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 marriage.
    • The government of Afghanistan should ratify the Convention against Discrimination in Education, which sets criteria and standards for girls’ and women’s 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 operation.
    • 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 action.

    <<previous  |  index  |  next>>July 2006