26.04.2018 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

Quality Education for Women is a Priority in my Development Agenda

Hukum Khan Habibi, Khost Governor ©UNESCO/Gerard


21 March 2018|UNESCO joined Dr Rahimi, Deputy-Minister of Education for Literacy and his team to kick-start the Skills Based Literacy (SBL) course program in Khost Province.

UNESCO is working in support of the Ministry of Education Literacy Department (LD) aiming to support over 30,000 men and women to learn to read and write – and put those new skills to practical use with the learning of a vocational skill, to increase their economic opportunities, and play an active role in the economic and social development of Khost Province.

UNESCO had the privilege of meeting with Governor Hukum Khan Habibi of Khost, and had the honour of interviewing the Governor on the literacy, and skills based literacy programmes beginning in Khost province. 

UNESCO: Governor Habibi, Afghanistan is recovering from many decades of war, and taking steps to become a more stable and developed nation. We have seen new education programs to address the estimated 10 million citizens who are illiterate, especially those living in rural and remote areas. Your Government has shown commitment to provide ‘Education for All’ by 2020, in line with the Afghan constitution and the National Education Strategic Plan.

Here in Khost, an innovative skills based literacy program has been launched under your leadership. UNESCO and the Ministry of Education Literacy Department (LD) is with you to support your work towards improving literacy and education for the people of Afghanistan, particularly here in Khost Province.

In line with the support UNESCO is providing, and as part of our communication strategy, we would like to find out about the direction of your administration on some key issues.


Election season is here. How high are literacy and education going to be on the agenda?

Governor Habibi: Thank you for this great question. As for my administration, literacy tops our agenda, and we are pushing our politicians to make it their priority as well. I have the clear impression that literacy and education is important for politicians, but I believe they could embrace it more.  In the past three years of my administration, I have consistently emphasised the utmost importance of men and women to get educated, and I have helped create a sound environment for that.

Question 2

Do you feel the political commitment to education programming is going to be sustainable?

Governor Habibi: Definitely, that is very important. Our President is firmly committed to education, and financial resources for education for example, have increased significantly. As far as sustainability is concerned, we struggle from time to time with the international community as the support they provide is critical and highly appreciated, but we also want to decrease dependency upon donors, as we keep increasing our own budget for education. I believe the private sector should also step up and become more engaged. In Khost for example, we have more than 70 schools, and we have to maximize our limited budgets to get more for education. The best way to do that, is dedicated planning, resulting in better aligning and coordination. We have put in place development plans for Khost, and I can assure you that we will increase the allocation for education.

Question 3

What is your proudest moment as a leader, in the area of mobilizing people toward literacy and education?

Governor Habibi: I am glad that our President declared the New Year as the ‘decisive year for education’ in our country; it is a top priority for us in Khost. We will announce and call on people to provide land for schools, and the private sector shall help us with adequate construction and maintenance of schools, in which we have invested 175,000 USD ourselves. Furthermore, we call on elderly, religious scholars, and Shura members to support our education program with encouraging and convincing communities to get their children to school, and to ensure adults gain literacy also. One of my proudest moments was when I learnt that the level of class attendance went up 40 percent in Khost Province. Another proud moment was when I heard that 40,000 new students will attend classes this new school year, and by mobilising the communities, I trust that this will be sustained and even increase, with the help of UNESCO and the MoE Literacy Department. I am also very proud of the fact that we have provided land for 1000 teachers to build their own family homes as compensation and support. To date, in my term as Governor, I implemented 250 different education projects, and a key program is being establishing through our relationships with the United Arab Emirates in building a new university and teaching hospital. A jewel in the crown is the new IT centre in both of our high schools which is connected with fiber cables so that students can now connect with the rest of the world. Last, but not least, is the current discussion we are having regarding the increase of teachers’ salaries in rural and remote parts of the province.

Question 4

If you could change one thing about the literacy situation, what would it be?

Governor Habibi: I like this question a lot. I want to improve the quality of education, to bring hardware and software to higher levels: buildings, teachers, books, libraries and the curriculum. With regards to our curriculum, I recommend UNESCO support our Ministry of Education with the introducing of more specific subjects, adding more subjects like environment and climate change, and subjects focusing on love for country, culture, and nation building. I am very glad to see UNESCO supporting the MOE with a foundation for a firmer curriculum. Also, I believe it is of utmost importance that our children are get trained with emotional development.

Question 5

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing reduction of illiteracy in Afghanistan?

Governor Habibi: Security is a challenge, but also the absence of buildings, of not having enough schools for our students. And poverty is terrible, a huge challenge, even in Kabul, where children are working in the streets, instead of going to school. That hurts me a lot. I want our civil servants to be less bureaucratic and become more efficient in their work, and we need more teachers, more books, even though we have improved on numbers and quantities, we still need more. And also, a huge challenge is how we do our social mobilisation in the communities, raising awareness amongst illiterate people and to mobilize them to go to school.

Question 6

How do you see the role of development partners and donor countries, for instance UNESCO, in supporting Afghanistan? What needs to change about this role?

Governor Habibi: We much appreciate UNESCOs support of the past 16 years in our country, but your role is changing as challenges remain huge with growing numbers of students. And what we expect of donors, is to better align and integrate work with our Government programs, and avoid setting up (paying for) parallel systems. We need to have a bigger say in what our partners plan to do, as my priority really is sustainability of investments. Also, I believe that we still do not have a sound environment for our students; more than half of them attend classes in sitting on the floor and in the open skies. Due to budget deficiencies, we are still challenged with adequate knowledge and expertise how to solve these bottlenecks. We expect donors to work with us to improve plans to address these challenges. 

Question 7

Is there a funding challenge for education programs? What steps are you taking in Khost to have sufficient funds for literacy and skills programs? 

Governor Habibi: Of course there is a funding challenge for the education department in Khost, and we need more money, urgently. That is why in our development plan, I allocated a larger share for education. I believe it is what we learnt from our donors to improve our coordination and to facilitate their support to a maximum extent. We work with the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNICEF, Care International, UNHCR and UNESCO and this collaboration ensures strong support of our development agenda. Remember that no single school in Khost has ever been closed in the past 10 years due to insecurity, which is why the Ministry of Finance is able to disburse more funds to Khost for further improving the school environment. The President has established ‘model schools’ in 5 provinces, and Khost is part of this innovative approach.

Question 8

How do you see the level of capacity among the education staff within government departments or directorates at the provinces, districts, or village levels?

Governor Habibi: I see pertinent improvements, but we still have problems with staffing. I admit that it requires more focus, and we provide additional training with incentives to get more courses, and more better equipped teachers. I would like to emphasise that I am sensitive for improved salaries and incentives across the board, and a better use of scarce financial resources aligned with improved management structures. Slowly but steadily, I see a stronger teaching force coming to fruit in Khost.

Question 9

As part of the policy on ‘Education for All’ by the year 2020, Afghanistan plans to reduce literacy by 50 percent among women. Do you feel sufficient attention is being paid to the education of women, and for instance are there enough teachers for women in Khost province?

Governor Habibi: Thank you very much for this very important question. In Khost, we established 70 new schools for females, and I think that is a condition for our progress. I can tell you that we have female students in all schools, but also, and this is equally important, that we apply positive discrimination practices in recruiting women teachers and paying teachers better salaries.

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