Back to school

Published: Saturday 15 March 2003

-- The Afghanistan government and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) will begin a new training programme for teachers before the new school year begins next month. Four million Afghan children are expected to return to school, many of them for the first time since the ouster of the Taliban regime.

More than 20,000 teachers will participate in the training exercise, which will largely focus on new ways to teach Afghanistan's most popular languages -- Dari and Pashto -- by using traditional folklore and stories. Efforts will also be made to inculcate awareness of landmines and unexploded ordnance. A large number of children are killed or maimed every month by mines in Afghanistan.

Learning lessons is not the only hard task the children are likely to face. A number of schools have been destroyed in rocket or arson attacks after the fall of the Taliban. The assaults are blamed on conservative elements protesting against women's education. In Afghanistan, girls are traditionally not encouraged to attend school once they reach puberty.

But the rejuvenated education sector is beginning to make a difference. Foreign aid promises to improve the quality of education, which could induce the girls to keep returning to school.

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