Mohammad Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President said on Thursday that the high illiteracy rate in the country was “terrible” and that many of the country’s problems are rooted in this.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the start of the new school year, Danish said: “64 percent of people (in Afghanistan) over the age of 15 are illiterate”.
He said the country needs to fight this phenomenon but added that people were now sending their children to school.
In addition, despite enormous achievements having been made in the education sector in the past 15 years, there are still problems in the sector, Danish said.
He said this year, one million new students would start school, of which 43 percent of them are girls.
He said however that insecurity is a key challenge for the education sector in the country and because of this, thousands of students drop out annually.
He pointed out that the increase in violence against women could also be linked to extremism and to those who are uneducated.
He claims the lack of proper school buildings in the country is also a problem.
Danish said security forces are determined to re-open schools in insecure parts of the country and also called on the public to “help with this.”
The new school year officially started on Thursday.
In the meantime, the acting minister of education Asadullah Hanif Balkhi said that millions of children still do not have access to education.
Balkhi said 9.2 million children are in school in Afghanistan of which 39 percent are girls.
This comes after Save the Children showed that more than 1,100 Afghan children a day are expected to drop out of school in 2017, putting them at risk of exploitation.
“More than 400,000 children in Afghanistan – over 1,100 per day – are expected to drop out of school this year due to growing instability and a spike in forced returns from Pakistan,” it said in a statement.
The statement said that the stark projection comes on the first day of the new school year in Afghanistan, when almost a third of all children across the country – 3.7 million – are unable to go to school, leaving them at increased risk of child labor, recruitment by armed groups, trafficking, early marriage and other forms of exploitation.
On the start of Afghanistan’s school year, Save the Children Country Director in Afghanistan, Ana Locsin, said:
“Today should be a happy day in Afghanistan as children go back to class for the first time after a long winter. Instead it is a day cloaked in tragedy for the millions who can’t access education and are struggling to survive.”
“We know that children who aren’t going to school are at increased risk of early marriage, entering the workforce where they can be exploited, or even recruitment into armed groups or being trafficked. And the longer they are out of the education system, the less likely they’ll ever go back,” she said.
Last year also saw major flare ups in fighting across the country, killing 923 children and making 2016 the deadliest year on record for Afghan children. This year, the UN predicts that 450,000 Afghans will be displaced due to fighting, while more than 9.3 million people across the country will need urgent humanitarian assistance, including over 1 million children suffering acute malnutrition.