Education is Power for Peace and Security in Afghanistan
George W. Bush Presidential Center | Written by Natalie Gonnella-Platts
October 11th, 2022.
Excerpts from the report (full article link below):
While leverage against the Taliban’s atrocities and growing humanitarian crisis may seem limited, one of the best ways the world can stand against their brutality and counter security concerns is through direct support for quality education for all Afghans. After all, when women are educated, their families are more likely to be educated, their children are healthier, and their communities are stronger.
Critical thinking builds resistance. Knowledge bolsters agency. Education encourages freedom. The Taliban know this. Every authoritarian recognizes this connection. It’s why tyrants and rogue actors discourage access to learning and free thought. Simply put, educational empowerment challenges autocracy, poverty, and terrorism.
Before the international withdrawal, women made up nearly 22% of the workforce and 27% of the Afghan legislative body, above the global average, according to World Bank data. Public approval for women’s suffrage was at a record high of 89.3%, according to a 2019 survey of the Afghan people conducted by the Asia Foundation. And overwhelming majorities of Afghans supported equal access to primary, secondary, and tertiary education (in a female student’s home province).
Gender parity in education and universal access to education for all Afghans required more work even in 2021. But the gains over the previous two decades were tremendous. They demonstrated what is possible when the universal right to education is supported politically, economically, and socially. And many Afghans – both male and female – fully recognize this.
Each additional year of school completed, especially at secondary levels, reduces early and forced marriage, infant mortality, and maternal morbidity. Children born to literate mothers are 50% more likely to survive beyond the age of 5 than those born to mothers who cannot read. Mortality of children under 5 years of age in Afghanistan declined by half over the 20-year period through August 2021, “the fastest reduction in child mortality across all low-income countries,” according to World Bank data and the Financial Times. Child malnutrition and maternal mortality also significantly decreased. Teenage pregnancy rates plummeted.
Philanthropic organizations and individual donors should create and expand scholarship opportunities for secondary education, continuing education, vocational training, and university study for refugee populations, including Afghans.
And though the Kabul campus has remained empty for over a year, the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) carries on empowering new and existing students via innovative programs that leverage online platforms and partner schools like the American University of Iraq Sulaimani, the American University of Central Asia, Bard College, and the soon-to-launch AUAF Doha branch campus. But the need for support currently outweighs the opportunities available on a global scale. Increased investment in and expansion of funding support for refugee students can yield tremendous impact for individuals, families, and communities at large.