Kabul, 24 July, 2011 – Today, the Afghan Ministry of Finance signed an agreement with the World Bank for a grant of $50 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). This is the initial tranche of a grant of $73 million approved for the Ministry of Education. The additional grant will provide further support to the ongoing Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) which aims at increasing equitable access to quality basic education, especially for girls.
Since its inception in 2006, the two phases of the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP I and II) have supported the construction or rehabilitation of over 1,600 schools throughout the country. Of these, some 50 percent have been completed while the rest are under construction. Some 100,000 teachers and over 6,500 principals and headmasters/mistresses have been trained. Moreover, over 11,000 schools have received grants to purchase school supplies and laboratory equipment, and a similar number of school shuras have been established to manage their schools in line with local priorities.
“Investing in education today will guarantee a prosperous and stable future for Afghanistan,” said HE Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, Minister of Finance, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “We appreciate the international community’s assistance in laying the institutional foundation for the sector, helping us to open more schools and improving the quality of education by building our teachers’ capacities. Given the pace of progress so far, we are confident that today’s students will become capable leaders in the Afghanistan of tomorrow.”
The additional grant will enable the Ministry of Education to continue its efforts to:
- Improve teaching and learning by facilitating enabling school environments in an additional 2,413 schools;
- Rehabilitate and construct 764 more school buildings using community participation and community-based decision making;
- Increase the level of professional knowledge and skills of over 100,000 educators, particularly female teachers;
- Equip a further 336 principals and school administrators in government-registered schools with the most needed administrative and leadership tools for improving schools;
- Provide scholarships for 3,500 female students in Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs); and
- Institutionalize a system for learning assessments of students.
“Despite Afghanistan’s impressive achievements in the education sector over the past couple of years – thanks to the generous assistance provided by the international community – many challenges remain,” said HE Dr Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “The educational opportunities for most children beyond primary school are extremely limited, and it is a challenge to send female teachers to the remote areas. Moreover, we are yet to build our institutional capacity to respond to the ever growing needs of the sector. The government is pleased that donors have appreciated our efforts in this regard and are channeling further resources to help us address the challenges we face in the sector.”
Today, over 14,000 education institutions are operating in Afghanistan, reaching 8 million students in all, with the enrollment of girls having risen from almost nil in 2002 to more than 2.5 million in 2010. Of the overall number of students, more than 1.1 million are estimated to be studying in EQUIP-supported schools. However, the education sector still has immense reconstruction needs. The demand for schools continues to grow by approximately 700,000 new students each year, and almost half of the school age population remains out of school, with significant gender and provincial disparities. The sector needs significant investments in infrastructure, the hiring and training of an increasing teaching force, and for providing basic pedagogical materials and textbooks.
“Improving the quality of education is a critical ingredient for human capital development, poverty alleviation and economic growth in Afghanistan,” said Josephine Bassinette, Acting World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “We are happy to see there are more children in schools than ever before in Afghan history. Equally important is the presence of many capable and educated teachers, who have been trained under different phases of this project. Donors also recognize the important role that school shuras – in which communities themselves participate – have played in improving the quality of education in recent years. We believe that increasing school enrollment and improving the quality of education should be pursued side by side. Donors remain committed to ensuring a prosperous Afghanistan by investing more technical and financial resources in the education sector.”
The EQUIP was initially financed by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) in 2006. IDA has so far committed $65 million grant for the program whereas ARTF donors’ contribution, including the new grant reaches over $158 million. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also committed more than $22 million for implementation of the program in 11 provinces.
Background information on the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF):
The World Bank administers the ARTF on behalf of donors. The ARTF is a partnership between the international community and the Afghan government to improve the effectiveness of the reconstruction effort. Since early 2002, 32 donors have contributed over $4.3 billion to the fund, making ARTF the largest contributor to the Afghan budget – for both operating costs and development programs. ARTF’s support for national priority programs, for operating costs of government operations, and for the policy reform agenda is contributing to the achievement of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy’s goals.