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Friday, May 15, 2009

Afghanistan: A school truly designed for the ‘poorest of the poor’

Afghanistan continues to be a place of stark need and clear opportunities for investment, especially as its young women are concerned.

The news agency IRIN tells us that ‘about two million state school students do not have access to safe drinking water and about 75 percent of these schools in Afghanistan do not have safe sanitation facilities’. In this same article, UNICEF states this lack of adequate facilities is one prominent reason that girls stay away from school. Classrooms may exist, but they are unsuitable for female students unless there are latrines nearby.

As with their clinic, the high school that HOPE International Development Agency Afghanistan is building this year will serve the poorest of the poor in the country’s northwest. Who better exemplifies real poverty than a young girl from a family without opportunities, in a region the government all but ignores, in a nation struggling so profoundly with issues of gender? Because this school’s raison d’etre is addressing the needs of the very poorest people in Afghanistan, care is being taken to ensure that this is a comfortable, appropriate place for girls. In addition to its 12 classrooms and library, the school will be equipped with a clean water system and proper washroom facilities.

Again, as with the clinic, the standard of quality that this school will reflect all but guarantees that families living all over the region will make use of it. It is an ambitious project, but services for these families should be provided with care, completeness, and attention to detail. Going the extra mile for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable citizens - its young daughters - is a necessary investment.

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