Afghanistan 'clears big obstacles' in girls' education

Girls at school in Kabul, Afghanistan Afghan girls still face "extreme disadvantage" when it comes to their education, the Unesco report says

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Afghanistan has overcome more obstacles than any other country in its efforts to educate girls, a report has said.

The number of girls enrolled in education in 2010 was 79%, up from 4% in 1999 during Taliban rule, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) said.

Credit was given to community schools, which had shortened travel distances and thus increased security for girls.

But Afghan schoolgirls are "extremely disadvantaged", the report said.

Afghanistan was the only country in 2010 that remained with a gender parity index (GPI) of below 0.70, Unesco said.

Gender parity is reached when a country's GPI is between 0.97 and 1.03. Afghanistan's GPI had risen from 0.08 to 0.69 between 1999 and 2010.

"Despite its place at the bottom of the rankings, however, Afghanistan has overcome the biggest obstacles to girls' education any country has witnessed," Unesco's Education for All (EFA) report said.

There were fewer than one million primary school students in 1999, when the ruling Taliban banned education for girls, but this had risen to more than five million in 2010, including more than two million girls, the report noted.

"With a long way still to go, the government needs to continue to address constraints on girls' schooling," it went on to say.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report is published annually, and monitors progress towards a set of targets agreed by 160 countries in 2000.

This year's report, published in Paris, found that the goal to ensure every child has a primary education by 2015 is going to be "missed by a large margin".

Despite an initial surge that saw tens of millions of extra children enrolling in primary schools, the report says progress is now "grinding to a halt".

Pauline Rose, director of the report, said that if the early rate of progress had been maintained the target would have been met, but now it would probably take until at least 2030.

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