Protecting education in Afghanistan

right to education in afghanistan 20 year review
Last update: May 31, 2022

UNESCO has been supporting education in Afghanistan since the Organization’s inception and has witnessed many significant gains particularly over the last twenty years as evidenced in the UNESCO report The right to education: what’s at stake in Afghanistan. A 20-year-review.  

Huge progress has been made in enrolment at all education levels from around 1 million students in 2001 to around 10 million in 2018 with the number of girls in primary school increasing from almost zero in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018.  

Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, in addition to unimaginable human costs, the crisis threatens to cancel out many of the development gains made in those twenty years. Forty years of war, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, have already taken a huge toll on the Afghan people. The country is now facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with acute risk of systemic collapse and human catastrophe. The education system has been hit hard and the right to education for Afghan children and youth is at stake. Since 23 March 2022, 1.1 million secondary girls have been prevented from attending secondary school until further notice. The ongoing crisis has had a detrimental impact on young women in higher education as well, with a 60 per cent decline in enrollment recorded.  

To ensure not all gains are lost, UNESCO, in close coordination with other education partners, has developed the Multi-Country Preparedness and Response Plan (MCPRP) to respond to both immediate and medium-term education needs in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.  

As part of the UN Country Team, in line with the UN Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Education Sector Transitional Framework, UNESCO is focusing on concrete activities to ensure, protect and prioritize the right of education for all Afghan people, especially girls and women including:  

  • Providing community-based literacy classes 
  • Strengthening higher education system and supporting Afghan people's access to higher education, especially for women Education data monitoring initiative  
  • Developing female teacher training hub for Afghan refugees in Iran 
  • Providing language training and support to assessment of prior learning for Afghan refugees in Tajikistan 

For more information, read UNESCO’s report: The right to education: What is at stake in Afghanistan? A 20-year review 

The right to education: what’s at stake in Afghanistan? A 20-year review