Even with recent, significant improvements to the national education system following the establishment of the Interim Authority, the figures on lagging student enrollment, high rates of attrition, and adult illiteracy demonstrate that the country’s education system has long been sacrificed to other national and security concerns.
The average number of years an Afghan child will spend in school is eight, with boys having a greater “school life expectancy” (at 11 years) than Afghan girls (4 years) (CIA Factbook, 2009). The fall of the Taliban ushered in greater educational opportunity, however the access to education for Afghan children was initially quite limited with only 1.6 million out of a possible 4.4 million children gaining access at the start of this century (Roshan, 2004, p. 280). However, the educational system experienced dramatic growth in the ensuing years and recent estimates put the figure at closer to five million students enrolled — reflecting too, the increase in student numbers as refugees began to return to the country (Banzet & de Geoffory, 2006). The increase also reflects the greater presence of girls, who were effectively restricted from attending school under the Taliban (Amiri et al., 2004). However, girls still face greater restrictions to educational opportunity than do their male peers. Roshan (2004) stated that older girls face a particularly difficult time obtaining education as they are vulnerable to harassment or sexual assault in their efforts to attend school. Further, gender segregation of the schools often results in inferior resources, facilities, curriculum and greater exposure to unqualified teachers for girls than for boys.
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