By Nilab Muhmand, IFRC

At fourteen years old, Ziwar, who lives in the Daikundi province of central Afghanistan, has big dreams.

“I have just started coming to school, but I can read and write now,” she says. “I will continue my education. I want to become a doctor to help people around me.”

Ziwar’s dreams and ambitions come at a challenging time, where armed conflict, situations of violence, disasters and emergencies tend to disrupt formal education. In 2002, only an estimated one million children, mostly boys, attended schools. In some areas affected by heavy conflict, only 15 per cent of girls goes to school, putting them at a particular disadvantage.

In another case, teenager Lal Mohammad, who works as a day laborer in Kabul, had to drop out of school after his father was killed in a suicide attack. “I was in school until I was 12 years old, back when my father was still alive,” says Mohammad. “I learned to read and write but since I am the eldest son, I had to stop schooling after my father died and take care of my family.”

Mohammad now earns around 2 US dollars a day (around 1.90 Swiss francs) doing odd jobs including polishing shoes to support his three younger sisters and a younger brother. When asked about his dreams and ambition, Mohammad said, “I want to continue my studies. I want to become an engineer in future.”

The Afghan Red Crescent Society is paving the road for education by creating a youth programme that not only helps to facilitate tuition courses, but also provide a range of training modules for children and youths. These sessions encourage students to learn, exchange ideas, practice peace and coexistence and foster good relationships with each other regardless of which tribe they come from, what language they speak and what religion they practice.

Afghan Red Crescent Society has also set up information corners in schools to help provide educational services for boys and girls of different ages, particularly those affected by humanitarian crises. Since the start of youth programme, over 25,000 youths in 25 provinces in the country have received training, which also included humanitarian education.

“Displacement and child marriage have significantly affected the Afghan children’s chances of going to school, and the unavailability of female teachers, poor teaching facilities and fear for their safety are all driving children, particularly girls, away from the classroom,” says Afghan Red Crescent Society’s Secretary General, Dr. Nilab Mobarez.  “Now is the time for a renewed commitment to provide girls and boys with relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society through the youth clubs and youth corners in school.”


Editor’s Note: The children named in this article has not been identified in the photographs to protect their privacy.