School and Education in Afghanistan


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 studies.

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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.

Afghanistan Country Flag

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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 northern India.

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.

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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.