January 24 is the International Education Day and this year UNESCO dedicates the day to girls and women in Afghanistan who have been deprived of their right to education, calling for the immediate lifting of the ban restricting their access to education.
The UN Agency said that barring girls and young women from classrooms in Afghanistan could wipe out huge gains made in education and create “a lost generation”.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay noted, “No country in the world should bar women and girls from receiving an education. Education is a universal human right that must be respected.”
“The international community has the responsibility to ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women are restored without delay. The war against women must stop,” she added.
The fifth International Day of Education will be celebrated on 24 January 2023 under the theme “to invest in people, prioritize education”. Building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022, this year’s Day will call for maintaining strong political mobilization around education and chart the way to translate commitments and global initiatives into action. Education must be prioritized to accelerate progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities and the climate crisis.
At present, 80 per cent (2.5 million) of school-aged Afghan girls and young women are out of school, because of the decision of the de facto authorities to deny them access to secondary schools and universities. It said that The decisions by the de facto authorities in Afghanistan threaten to wipe out the development gains made by the country over the past 20 years. From 2001 to 2021, Afghanistan saw a tenfold increase in enrolment at all education levels from around 1 million students to around 10 million, with the support of the international community, including UNESCO. During this period, the number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero to 2.5 million. Women’s participation in Afghan higher education also increased almost 20 times, from 5,000 students to over 100,000. Literacy rates for women almost doubled, from 17% of women being able to read and write in 2001 to nearly 30% for all age groups combined.
A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
UNESCO is calling for immediate and non-negotiable access to education and a return to school for all girls and young women in Afghanistan.
“Everyone has the right to education. Everybody. But in Afghanistan, girls and women have been deprived of this fundamental right,” said the agency.
During the past two decades, UNESCO has supported the Afghan education system, including through running a literacy programme that reached over 600,000 young people and adults, 60 per cent of them women.
Since the Taliban takeover, it has shifted activities to ensure continuity of education through community-based literacy and skills development classes for over 25,000 young people and adults in 20 provinces.
An advocacy campaign reached over 20 million Afghans to increase public awareness of the right to education for youth and adults, especially young girls and women.
UNESCO is also working on an initiative to ensure reliable education data so that partners can direct funding to meet the most critical outstanding needs.