For Immediate Release
June 11, 2017
Afghanistan has made tremendous strides in education over the last 15 years. From 600,000 children enrolled in school in 2001 to 8.7 million today, great progress has been made. The American people are proud to share in this success with our Afghan friends. Afghanistan has hired and trained tens of thousands of teachers and constructed an unprecedented number of schools. Yet despite this progress, over 3.5 million children remain out of school, and many more don’t complete their education.
Without an education, Afghans will be hard pressed to participate successfully in Afghanistan’s growing economy, which is dependent on able and productive citizens. We welcome the revised National Education Strategic Plan released by the Afghan government this year. While it continues to emphasize access to education, the Strategic Plan now also highlights quality and governance. The plan is critical for coordination and assistance with organizations such as the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank’s education program. As a result of the hard work of the Ministry of Education and the donor community, we anticipate these two programs will serve those children still waiting for their opportunity to go to school.
Access to a quality public education is the right of every child, and the progress made in the last 15 years is truly remarkable. One of our local employees is from a small village in eastern Afghanistan. When he was young, there was one primary and secondary school—for boys only. Now, when he returns to his home town, he sees more schools—a high school for boys, and now a high school for girls. This village has embraced the understanding that both boys and girls need schooling in order to build a better Afghanistan. This is a testament to the progress made in the last 15 years.
I know there is more work to be done, and working together, we will build on our successes. In the last five years, USAID, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, printed and distributed 47 million textbooks to primary students in 34 provinces, and last year we expanded that to distribute an additional 11 million to primary and secondary students in 24 provinces. Over the next five years, USAID has committed to printing 135 million textbooks, enough for every child, in every school, in every province from first grade through high school graduation.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to inaugurate another U.S.-sponsored initiative called the Afghan Children Read Program. This five-year, $70 million program will improve reading skills for boys and girls in grades 1 through 3. We expect more than one million Afghan children will benefit from this program.
Whether through student-driven innovations and new technologies, or leveraging the technical expertise of the international community, Afghanistan is soaring to new heights in the pursuit of quality education. While universal public education is the ultimate goal in Afghanistan, affordable, quality private schools are also a viable alternative to explore. I passionately believe that education offers the best and surest path for a brighter future for Afghanistan.