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Keep Education Going in Afghanistan

By Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

In 2001, a six-year-old girl in Afghanistan could expect, despite the odds, to attend primary and secondary school, graduate from university, and pursue a profession.

These days might be over if the new order instates a system that institutionalizes discrimination against girls and women, and annuls commitments made over the past two decades to advance education. The consequences would be catastrophic for the people, the country and regional and global security.

Although the country still lags far behind its South Asian neighbours on all education indicators, the progress achieved over the past twenty years – starting nearly from scratch – is nothing short of remarkable. This is documented in trends assessment report published by UNESCO here.


In twenty years, the total number of enrolled students increased tenfold, from around 1 million to 8 million learners. From almost zero in 2001, the number of girls in primary school shot up to 2.5 million in 2018. Today 4 out of 10 students in primary education are girls. Their number in higher education increased from around 5,000 in 2001 to 90,000 – representing 25 percent of the student population. The number of teachers rose by 58% – and that of female teachers by over 100 %. The female literacy rate almost doubled from 17% to 30%, even if it still remains one of the lowest in the world.

Behind these numbers lies empowerment, voice and opportunity – the possibility to participate in society, to contribute to one’s country. Education is a game changer.
Over the past 15 years, with support from bilateral partners, UNESCO led the largest literacy program in Afghan history, reaching 1.2 million learners, including 800,000 women and girls, as well as 45,000 police officers. We supported the development of national strategies for education, established the first ever national institute for educational planning, trained planning officers and contributed to the reform of the education curriculum.

It’s not the time to put a clamp on extraordinary progress but instead to maintain and step up investment in education to consolidate gains, bring down barriers to expand access, improve learning and keep children in school for a full cycle. We need breakthrough not breakdown strategies.

The challenges ahead are colossal. Half of primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school while 93% of children at late primary are not proficient in reading. Child marriage continues to put a pall on girls’ education and future, affecting 1 in 3 girls under 18. The COVID-19 pandemic and conflict have placed additional strain on education development with millions of learners affected by the closure of schools and other educational institutions. The number of internally displaced persons is projected to increase, heightening the risk of learning losses among children.

The system remains heavily dependent on external aid that accounts for half the education budget. A withdrawal of aid could lead the system to implode. We cannot let the Afghan people down but there are red lines. Afghanistan has enshrined the right to education for all citizens in the Constitution adopted in 2004 and guarantees 9 years of compulsory education for all girls and boys. It has signed up to international normative instruments relating to education and the rights of women, including the Convention against Discrimination in Education in 2010 and Convention on Discrimination against Women before this, in 2003.

Upholding these commitments to build on the achievements of the past two decades is the starting point. This means respect for girls’ and women’s rights and their full access to education and training opportunities at all levels, including scientific disciplines. It entails curricula that promote non-violence, appreciation for cultural diversity and peace. It means ensuring safe learning environments for all learners and teachers in line with the Safe School Declaration endorsed by the country. Today’s challenges are global and interdependent, and education must reflect this to help youth build resilience and navigate change to benefit their country.

You can’t take away knowledge that’s been acquired but you can keep a whole nation locked in poverty without making education a foundation for the future. The country needs more education for girls and boys to reduce poverty, make a dent into still dramatically high levels of child mortality, malnutrition and stunting. Afghanistan, together with all the world’s nations, adopted ambitious global goals in 2015 for peace, planet and prosperity. They may seem beyond reach, but as the past 20 years have demonstrated, rapid change is possible. It’s happened through political will and international collaboration – and the shared conviction that education holds the power to transform lives and development trajectories. Nearly 65% of the Afghan population is under 25 – this is the country’s richest resource and its future. We need political will and commitment from the new authorities and summon international solidarity to provide children and youth with their fundamental right to learn. Everyone will win if universal education becomes the bedrock of recovery and peace-building that the Afghan people desperately need.


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Kenya National Library Service embraces technology amidst Covid-19

Africa/Kenya/27-08-2021/Author and Source:

Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) has created programmes aimed at ensuring the youths continue with their research and lessons during the pandemic period.

Eldoret branch Principal Librarian Ruth Jemo said the library has introduced computer literacy training programmes to equip youths with the necessary technological skills needed during the pandemic period.

“At the moment we have 16 trainees who started their training at the beginning of the month and we expect more as we continue,” she said.

Jemo indicated that the library has beefed up its cyber, WIFI, and LAN capabilities to ensure young people interested in research and learning enjoy uninterrupted services at the library.

She further said a partnership with the Uasin Gishu County government has enabled the library to set up a well-equipped cyber section to allow students to participate in online classes free of charge.

Entrance of Kenya National Library in Eldoret.

Data by The World Economic Forum stipulate that over 1.2 billion children from 186 countries were forced out of school by the coronavirus pandemic compelling schools to adopt online solutions to bridge the gap.

Apart from the cyber café, Jemo indicated that the library has made arrangements to accommodate more students by converting the children section into a makeshift study area for adults.

“We also have personal booths that can be used by both students and teachers engaged in online learning. These booths have internet facilities to ensure smooth services,” she said.

“Part of KNLS’ strategic plan is to enhance the availability of resources through the utilization of modern technologies,” she said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has furnished them with an opportunity of accommodating technology in their day-to-day services.

The library has also rolled out business skills programmes designed to educate youths on matters of online business and communication skills.

“We have book talks on topical issues where we invite speakers to cover issues affecting the youths in this country,” she said.

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Kenya: 90 schools to get internet connection under Digital Literacy Programme

Africa/Kenya/20-08-2021/Author and Source:

Nokia, Safaricom, UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of ICT have announced a joint initiative that will connect at least 90 schools with high speed internet.

Under the Digital Leraning Programme, the initiative aims to ‘connect the unconnected’, with the ultimate goal of supporting the Kenyan Government’s plans to scale broadband connection to all schools by 2030.

“As part of our Transforming Lives purpose and vision to become a purpose-led technology company, we are always looking for partnerships that allow us to use our services to deliver social impact in areas aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. Our shared value partnership with UNICEF and Nokia allows us to connect schools in underprivileged areas and increase access to digital literacy. This will ensure that the students there are not left behind when it comes to reaping the benefits of an ever-increasing digital society,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom.

The connected schools are spread across rural and informal urban settlements in Kenya, serving an estimated 32,670 students.

Schools are using Nokia’s FastMile 4G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband solution to provide reliable, high-speed connectivity delivered over Safaricom’s 4G/LTE network. Nokia’s meshed WiFi Beacon technology is used to boost the Internet signal in selected classrooms and computer labs.

“An important belief that we hold at Nokia is the need to provide ‘broadband for all’. With remote learning becoming the prevailing issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, the topic of digital equity takes center stage again, so we are excited that this collaboration will facilitate access to many students currently unconnected. This is an initiative we are very proud to be a part of and hope that it is a significant step to a brighter future for all those reaping its benefits,” said Amr K. El Leithy, Nokia Senior Vice-president for Middle East and Africa Market.

The importance of good connectivity has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures in Kenya in 2020 meant that children had to stay at home for six to nine months, leaving them reliant on remote learning.

The digital divide meant that students who could access the internet were better placed to continue with their learning.

“Children have a right to access quality education wherever they are, yet for too long, the digital divide has prevented disadvantaged children from enjoying the same benefits as their connected peers. By connecting schools to the Internet – with a focus on the most disadvantaged areas – we can start to level the playing field. This allows students and teachers to gain digital skills and access the latest education materials, providing a brighter future for some of the most vulnerable children in Kenya,” added Maniza, UNICEF Kenya Country Representative.

Schools equipped with a broadband connection, digital devices and teacher training will now be able to make better use of video communication, digital curricula and online content, thereby improving digital literacy and skills among school children.

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Kenya: KICD denies over supplying schools with text books

Africa/Kenya/13-08-2021/Author: ANTONY GITONGA/Source:

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has denied claims that it authorized the oversupply of textbooks in public schools across the country.

The institute has attributed the move to the mass transfer of students from one school to the other due to Covid-19 that saw parents lose jobs and relocate to their rural homes.

In the last couple of months, headteachers and leaders have cried foul over the continuous dumping of unwanted books in the schools by printers.

Some schools have been forced to buy plastic water tanks to store the books with their stores already filled up.

But according to KICD Director Professor Charles Omondo, the flooding had affected a few schools after learners were transferred at the height of the pandemic.

“A few schools that were affected by the transfers had problems with the books supply but we are reviewing this problem,” he said.

Omondo at the same time denied that set books were being changed every year noting that KICD had evaluated all the books needed by schools.

“We have given teachers the books that have met the threshold and they are supposed to pick one per subject while the others can be used by the teachers for reference,” he said.

Addressing the press in Central Primary school in Naivasha, the director added that they are visiting schools to ensure grade five pupils have received learning materials.

He said that plans for the transition from 8-4-4 to Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC) system were in place with the government moving in to build in more classes.

KICD has further disassociated itself from a long list of books being demanded by some private schools

Earlier, Gilgil Mp Martha Wangari had raised an alert over the possible loss of millions of shillings in procurement of textbooks for public schools.

According to the Mp, schools were oversupplied with hundreds of books that they did not need as part of the capitation fees that went to pay the printers.

“It’s time that we allowed teachers to procure the books that they need and we should put a threshold on the amount used to buy the books,” she said.

She added that tens of schools in the country had been oversupplied with books that they did not require while set books were being changed every year.

“When parliament resumes we shall summon the CS for Education to clarify on this issue where printers are dumping unwanted books in schools,” she said.

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COVID-19: Education replaced by shuttered schools, violence, teenage pregnancy. World

World/06-08-2021/Author and Source:

A culture of “safety, friends and food” at school has been replaced by “anxiety, violence, and teenage pregnancy”, with remote learning out of reach for millions, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Tuesday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “more than 600 million children in countries not on academic break are still affected by school closures”, James Elder, UNICEF spokesperson at a press conference at UN Geneva.

In countries such as Uganda, this has led to a “20 per cent spike in the last 15 months in teen pregnancies, or pregnancies of 10-24-year-old girls, who were seeking antenatal care. Across the globe in all continents we’ve seen child helplines, a good precursor to understanding kids who are reporting violence, seeing often triple-digit increases,” said Elder.

COVID-19 school closures

In nearly half of countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been closed for around 200 days. Latin America and the Caribbean have seen some of the longest closures ever with 18 countries and territories affected by either full or partial closures.

As of today, the UN agency estimates in Eastern and Southern Africa that 40 per cent of all children aged 5 to 18, are currently out of school.

Elder added that if these figures “did not resonate with those in power, then a World Bank report estimates a loss of $10 trillion in earnings over time”, for this generation of students.

Remote learning ‘out of reach’

A teenage student studies at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda.
© UNICEF/Francis Emorut
A teenage student studies at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda.

Equally alarming is the fact that the solution of remote learning is “simply out of reach” for at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren, the UNICEF spokesperson continued. In East Asia and the Pacific, “80 million children have no access whatsoever to any remote learning.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, Uganda school children have gone more than 300 days out of school, while home internet connectivity “is the lowest on the planet there at about 0.3%”.

‘Situation cannot go on’

In a call for action, UNICEF appealed for five main steps: Schools should reopen as soon as possible; governments and donors must protect the education budget; enrolment should be extended to children who were already out of school pre‑COVID‑19 – by removing financial barriers and loosening registration requirements – and cash transfers to the most vulnerable, must be increased.

“Everything needs to be done to bring an end to the pandemic,” Mr. Elder said, starting with making vaccines available everywhere by sharing excess doses and financing to support the roll-out of vaccines.

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Kenya: PS Nabukwesi says research will improve quality of higher education

Africa/Kenya/30-07-2021/Author:ERIC BIEGON, KNA/Source:

The Principal Secretary in the State Department of University Education and Research Amb. Simon Nabukwesi has yet again made a case for more research in the country’s institutions of higher learning.

Speaking during the official opening of the 5th Annual Conference of the Co-operative University of Kenya, Amb Nabukwesi noted that nations that lack the capacity to carry out their own research, struggle when faced with challenges such as the current covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 global pandemic shows us, in more ways than we could have imagined, that we are all connected as a people irrespective of the many boundaries and restrictions that we may have,” The PS said,

He added that “when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Kenya, most of us, if not all, imagined that this would be a passing cloud and that soon we would resume our normal day to day activities”

Nabukwesi however expressed satisfaction given that during the two-day-Conference, a number of academic papers will be presented under the theme of ‘Social and Solidarity Economy as a catalyst for resilience, inclusivity, and attainment of Sustainable Development Goals,’

“I am glad to hear that this is the second conference that the University is holding virtually, to discuss Covid-19, a commendable achievement to the University and organizers of this event,” remarked the PS.

This kind of resilience, Nabukwesi said, emphasizes that life has to indeed move on and research has to be done and documented. He emphasized that research is, will remain to be, a major activity in any institution of higher learning worth its name.

Further, the PS said research informs the development strategies of any nation and Kenya is no exception.

“It has been reported that less than two percent of all Africans are vaccinated against Covid-19 while in the US it is about 50 percent,” added Nabukwesi.

This Report, the PS said, is a sad reality that serves as an eye-opener for developing countries such as Kenya, that special attention and resources ought to be directed towards research and development.

Nabukwesi said the Ministry continues to lay great emphasis on the importance of research as a means to solving Kenyan, African, and even global challenges.

“My challenge to faculty in this University is to contribute to the generation of new knowledge on Cooperatives and how Cooperatives can help us to resolve societal challenges,” added the PS.

Nabukwesi said that he would like to see more research from faculty that focuses, among other topics, on how the country can harness the greatness of Cooperatives to contribute to the Government’s Development Agenda, including contributing to the ‘Big Four’ Agenda.

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Kenya: Clergymen call for review of tax regime, reduction of school fees


Religious leaders have faulted the government of Kenya for the high cost of living occasioned by rise in prices of basic commodities, and called for a review of the current tax regime to cushion Kenyans from the tough economic times.

Speaking at Kangeta in Igembe Central, Meru County Sunday when they presided over the induction of two church ministers into Archdeacons, the head of the National Independent Church of Africa (NICA) Archbishop Dr. Stephen Marete and Bishop Stephen Kalunyu who heads the NICA Mission Diocese which covers Meru, Isiolo and Marsabit noted that the suffering of Kenyans had reached record levels never witnessed before, calling upon those in authority to urgently consider reviewing the current tax regime which will bring a sigh of relief to vulnerable Kenyans.

Archbishop Marete advised that the tough economic times calls for proper priorities by the government, arguing that projects like the BBI referendum which is currently on halt could wait for better times, arguing that the Covid 19 pandemic has already worsened the situation.

The Cleric also faulted the move by a number of universities to increase school fees which led to student protests, arguing that such a move was ill advised and untimely.

He noted that even the previous amounts charged by the institutions of learning were already an uphill task for struggling Kenyans to raise and should therefore be reduced to manageable levels.

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