Conflict and subsequent Taliban rule destroyed Afghanistan’s education system, and girls were forbidden to attend school. This has changed through funding from the EQUIP program. Today, girls’ enrollment has increased to 2.7 million from less than 200,000 in 2002, and boys’ attendance to about 4.4 million from less than a million, reaching a total of 7.1 million children in Afghanistan.
Despite steady progress during the past decade, challenges in terms of enhancing access, equity, and quality remain. Roughly 50% of schools do not have proper buildings. More than 50 percent of the teachers have not graduated from Grade 12. In addition, provisions of textbooks and incentives for teachers are also minimal, prompting high dropout and absenteeism rates among students and teachers. Furthermore, education outcomes are stark in insecure provinces. Around 500 schools across the country were shut because of insecurity in the past year. Female participation in education as students, teachers and school administrators is low in rural and insecure areas.
The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and World Bank sought to encourage community participation and secure long-term sustainability of its work by aligning project development objectives with the government’s development objectives and its education strategies and plans. Improving the quality of outputs as well as enhancing the overall quality of teaching and the learning environment is critical. School infrastructure grants, quality improvement grants, and teacher and principal training have helped bring about notable improvements in quality and participation in education. In addition, the formation of school shuras (community-led decision-making bodies) has helped enhance community participation and local ownership of education investments. The shuras help facilitate community contracting for establishing new schools and also help create school improvement plans, as well as providing round-the-clock support on various issues facing the schools.
" With the support of EQUIP and the ARTF, parents have realized that this school should be like home for their children, so they have come together and worked hard to make this place nice. "
- a School advisory council member
The Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), with its objective to increase equitable access to quality basic education especially for girls through school grants, teacher training, and strengthened institutional capacity, was able accomplish many of its targets, and even surpassed some.
EQUIP II, funded through the ARTF and the Bank’s contributions of funding and expertise, supported the construction of 38 schools (i.e., larger, more technically complex buildings), and the construction or rehabilitation of 318 schools (simple structures where construction is managed by communities). In addition, there are a total of 521 (CC and NCB) schools under construction. 283 new schools are anticipated to be built with the Additional Financing.
100,333 teachers were trained in the In-Service Training INSET I and 86,771 in INSET II. 7,059 principals and headmasters/headmistresses received the School Management Training (SMT I). The SMT II training was provided to 7,056 principals/school managers. 3,328 scholarships were awarded to female recipients enrolled in Teacher Training Colleges. An estimated 1.17 million students are currently studying in EQUIP II supported schools; of this number, 469,130 or nearly 40% are girls. Under EQUIP I and II, social mobilization activities have been conducted in 11,087 communities which have resulted in setting up of 11,087 school shuras and the preparation of 10,939 school improvement plans nationwide. So far, 10,800 schools have received Quality Enhancement Grants for purchase of school supplies and laboratory equipment.
" No one can ask me if education is important. It is essential in our lives that not only boys, but also girls, go to school. "
- a Grandfather of six girls
World Bank and ARTF Contribution
The Second Education Quality Improvement Program has budgeted $313 million in support between 2008 and 2014. Of this amount, $283 million is being drawn from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), and $30 million is a grant from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).
In addition to the support from ARTF and IDA, bilateral donors have also complemented financing education sector projects. All funds – whether from the ARTF or IDA – are “on budget” and are channeled through the government’s budget. The Bank’s preference for “on budget” financing approach has influenced other donors to also consider using this funding option, which boosts government capacity and ownership of these efforts.
Remarkable progress has been achieved with the ARTF and Bank’s support, and the focus is now shifting toward improving the quality and the longer-term sustainability of results. In addition, Afghanistan is undergoing a transition process that will see a reduction in international presence, as well as decrease in aid money. To further consolidate project gains and, more importantly, to strengthen systems at Ministry of Education, the Bank will extend the Education Quality Improvement Program. During this time, a learning outcomes assessment – as well as several other preparatory and summative measures – will be taken to prepare for a new program that will reflect the needs and context of the achievements of the past decade.