In terms of school, work and health, Afghan women risk a twenty-year jump back

In terms of school, work and health, Afghan women risk a twenty-year jump back

In terms of school

Efforts that have led to doubling school enrollment, increasing female employment and improving health are in danger of being wiped out

(Photo: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) In the twenties years following the fall of the Taliban fundamentalist regime, living conditions in Afghanistan have seen a continuous improvement. In particular, the female population was able to benefit from better health conditions, easier and more widespread access to education and work and a decrease in teenage pregnancies. However, all these achievements are now in danger of being dramatically wiped out by the new regime which, despite promises to soothe the international community, is led by the same people and principles that in 1996 banned women from going to school or working.


"In the last two decades, enormous progress has been made with respect to the education of women and girls," explained Susannah Hares, director of educational programs at the Center for global development, but " now, all this risks getting lost quickly and it is likely that we will see many, many Afghan girls forced to leave school “. In fact, after the fall of the Taliban government, according to UNESCO data, the enrollment rates in schools and universities by girls and women have almost doubled. In parallel, the levels of teenage pregnancies, due to forced marriages or kidnappings, decreased by 160% between 2001 and 2019.


In addition, women have also become a substantial part of the Afghan workforce, reaching levels of engagement never reached before. Since 2001, women have come to represent 40% of the total number of primary school teachers and a fifth of the total of public administrative employees. While one in four seats in Parliament was occupied by a woman. It is therefore not surprising that the majority of the female population said they were opposed to a return of the Taliban regime. According to a survey carried out by the Asia foundation in 2019, only 45% of the women interviewed favored a fundamentalist entry into the government, against 71% of support from men.


Health protection has also improved over the past twenty years, halving infant mortality rates and the risk of death by childbirth. In general, life expectancy has also increased, with an increase of about 10 years compared to 2001. Despite this, life expectancy in Afghanistan is still 8 years lower than the world average and 5 years below the South Asian average. . Furthermore, living standards are still the lowest in the area and more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, reports the Financial Times.

International aid

This too due to the direction taken by international aid and funding, diverted more towards defense and military spending than towards real development plans and economic independence. In the last year, Afghanistan has managed to export only one billion dollars in goods, less than Tajikistan, a neighboring state but with a population four times smaller. This is because 80% of the Afghan economy is still informal.

With the arrival of the new regime it is probable that even the few international aid will be definitively cut and that the economy and education will experience a rapid decline, such as to bring Afghanistan back twenty years.

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Schools carrying out Covid tests ‘inevitably’ means disruption to start of term

Secondary schools and colleges carrying out coronavirus testing “inevitably” means students will face some disruption during the first week of term, a leader of a headteachers’ union has said.

Department for Education (DfE) guidance states that secondary school pupils in England should be tested twice on site on their return in the autumn term, with lateral flow device tests carried out between three and five days apart.

It adds that secondary schools and colleges can “stagger” the return of pupils across the first week to manage the Covid-19 testing process.

The Labour Party has written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urging him to immediately clarify the implications for learning after the average pupil missed 115 days in school during the pandemic.

It warns that recent reports suggesting that the return to school could be delayed for pupils has created uncertainty and confusion for families with less than a fortnight to go until the start of term.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has warned that “disruption” at the start of term is inevitable.

He said: “The Government has asked secondary schools and colleges to provide on-site asymptomatic coronavirus testing at the start of the autumn term.

“The Government advice to secondary schools and colleges is that they may commence testing from three working days before the start of term and can stagger the return of pupils across the first week to manage this. That will inevitably mean some disruption during the first week of the new term.”

Mr Barton added: “The testing programme is a very significant logistical exercise and we have repeatedly urged the Government to provide schools and colleges with more practical support in delivering these tests.”

Shadow education secretary Kate Green has claimed that Mr Williamson’s “constant disregard” for parents’ need to plan ahead, manage childcare and prepare for the return to school has been “staggering”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, she asked: “Are schools expected to provide remote teaching or learning materials during the period when testing is being carried out for pupils not in school?

“Why are these plans only being discussed now, with less than 10 days until the first schools are due to return for the beginning of the new school year?

“Once again, your delayed planning and chaotic decision-making risks creating havoc for families and will put additional pressure on school staff planning for the start of the new year.”

Ms Green has also urged Mr Williamson to provide certainty around ventilation in schools and explain why the Government has only just announced provision of carbon dioxide monitors for schools.

On Saturday, the DfE said a £25 million investment will go towards rolling out around 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors across education settings in England from September to help staff tackle poor ventilation.

Ms Green added: “The Conservatives’ chaotic, last-minute approach is damaging children’s education.

“Parents would rightly expect ministers to have learnt from their mistakes over the last year, but once again families are being treated as an afterthought.

“After two years of disrupted education, each day in school matters. The Conservatives’ systematic refusal to plan ahead is just not good enough. Labour is demanding better for our children’s futures.”

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