From the 1950s until the Soviet invasion of 1979, the
authorities in Afghanistan invested ever greater resources
on education. The need is great: almost 70% of the country's
adult population is estimated to be illiterate (1995). The
traditional teaching in the village schools has in many
cases been integrated and supplemented with a modern school
system. Since the 1960s, special attention has been paid to
the expansion of an elementary school. Tuition is free.
Schooling is compulsory where schools are located. In 1979,
it was estimated that 36% of children of compulsory school
age attended primary school (57% of boys and 14% of girls).
Then there are opportunities to continue in middle school,
high school and college. University has been in Kabul since
1932 and in Jalalabad since 1963. There are also industrial
and craft schools, agricultural schools, theological schools
and teacher education institutions. In 1990, almost 20,000
people were estimated to pursue university or college
The war in the 1980s put enormous strain on the school
system, and only a fraction of the children came into
contact with some form of schooling, while the higher
education was controlled by Soviet interests. The situation
thereafter has only partially improved. Although aid
organizations maintain many schools, it is estimated that
only one third of children in Afghanistan receive schooling.
In addition, the fundamentalist Taliban's takeover of power
in 1996 meant that girls over the age of 10 were denied
school education and that higher education was more or less
closed to women.
The mountains we know today under the name of Hindu Kush,
by the Greeks called the Caucasus and by the Persians
Paropamisos, were quite sparsely populated until the
agricultural revolution. By means of this, and because of
the country's location between the highlands of Persia, the
Central Asian steppe country and the valleys of India, a
remarkable population growth was witnessed; the entire
region was transformed into a transit camp for frequent
migrations, and the Khyber Pass became the gateway to
In the 6th century BCE, the country was incorporated into
Ciro the Great Persian Empire, and then - three centuries
later - became part of the Hellenistic world, under
Alexander of Macedonia, who founded Alexandropolis, today
known as Qandahar. By virtue of a ceasefire between the
Greeks and Indians, Afghanistan was transformed into a
province of the Moorish empire that brought together the
whole of northern India.
Between the first and third centuries AD, an invading
tribal people, of Scythian origin and belonging to the
Indo-European tribe, formed a state called Kusana, which
became a center of trade between Rome, India and China, and
which was passed by the so-called 'Silk Road' ». In the
Tarim River basin, Buddhism was introduced in China. In the
year 240, the kingdom of Kusana was incorporated into the
Nepali Sasánide empire, which existed until the beginning of
the 8th century, when the Caliph Walid conquered all land,
all the way to Indus.
The dominions of the Mongols
Until the 8th century, the Mongol conquests caused severe
anxiety throughout the ancient world. Afghanistan was part
of the kingdom of Genghis Khan, led by Karakorum, and as the
struggle for the dynasty resulted in its dissolution, the
country fell into the hands of Timur Lenk, (Tamerlán), whose
descendants ruled Afghanistan until the early 16th century.
With the establishment of the Third Persian Shiite
Empire, (1502), and the Empire of the Great Mughal in India,
(1526), the region became the scene of uninterrupted
strife between Mongols who controlled Kabul, the Persians of
the Safavid dynasty who sat in the southern part of the
country and the Uzbek descendants from Tamerlán who reigned
in the northwest.
Of these convulsions, in 1747, a unitary state emerged
when a council of local leaders elected Ahmad Durrani, a
military leader who had served under the Persians, to the
shah. The new shah was forced to enforce this unit by
military means, thereby securing the borders of the country.
For the Russians who had arrived in the area in the early
18th century, the need to settle on the Persian Gulf or
Arabian Sea for the dual purpose of accessing the sea and
controlling its primary enemy, Det Ottoman Empire,
hinterland. The English, who established themselves in India
a century later, sought to control access to the valleys of
India, in order to reduce the free movement of nomads whose
migrations destabilized the English supremacy. On the other
hand, control over the mountain areas meant the possibility
of eliminating the sanctuaries where all the anti-British
rebels in India sought refuge.
The area we know today as Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan
was the geographical key to both of these projects. With
regard to Afghanistan, the tactics of the two "superpowers"
varied: While the Russians combined diplomacy with bribes,
the English set a tough course.