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A new era begins as Afghan schools reopen

Afghanistan, March 25, 2002

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    Mercy Corps is helping boys and girls return to school in Afghanistan. Photo: Scott Heidler/Mercy Corps Photo:

The first step in the long road to the revitalization of the education system in Afghanistan is being hailed as a great success, but there is a long way to go to expand the educational opportunities for the country’s 4.5 million school age children.

The Associated Press reports that an estimated 1.5 million Afghan boys and girls attended classes on Saturday as more than 3,000 schools across Afghanistan opened their doors for the beginning of the new school year.

For many, it was the first time they had stepped inside a classroom after being denied a formal education by the Taliban regime for more than five years.

While celebrations occurred throughout the country as Afghan children began the traditional school year on the first work day following the Persian New Year, the dismal state of the Afghan education system remains.

Classrooms are often bare and lack basic supplies like chairs, forcing students to sit on mud floors using their knees as their desks. Schools are riddled with bullet holes and badly in need of structural repairs. Teachers are frequently not paid and are in need of training.

Through its Afghan Education Campaign, Mercy Corps is working with local officials to identify the greatest needs and to assist with repair work that will build upon the initial success of the first day and expand the educational opportunity for more than 30,000 students in 200 schools.

The need for quick improvements is especially important as an estimated half a million more students are expected to enroll in schools by May, taxing already overburdened resources.