Afghanistan - The Toughest Battle
A mountain of knowledge
Forty-five per cent of Afghanis are under 14 but the country has just 7,000 schools.
Last Modified: 21 May 2007 12:17 GMT

The children must cross a river to reach the only
school in the area
With forty-five per cent of the population under 14 years old and just 7,000 schools in Afghanistan, there are an estimated 1,800 children to every school.

The Taliban are believed to have destroyed more than 500 schools in the last year, including 200 in Kandahar, 165 in Helmand and 165 in Zabul where only five now remain.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr visits one school in Badakshan province in Northern Afghanistan and discovers the hardships the pupils must endure just to attend.

Making the journey

Most of the children do not have chairs or desks
In order to reach the only school in this mountainous area we had to set off on foot.

The children must cross a river. Winter floods washed the bridge away, which is not unusual in Afghanistan.

Five-hundred children are enrolled in the school. To cope with the numbers the school works two shifts.

Not all students show up, however. First and second-graders are too young to make the journey.


Watch Zeina Khodr's report on education in Afghanistan.

Inside the classroom - a temporary tent - the kids are learning mathematics. Some of them do not have chairs and desks and the teachers do not have the proper tools with which to teach so they use stones instead.

Mullah Nooruddin, the school principal, says: "We are facing a lot of problems ... we just don't have trained staff and our budget is not enough to improve things."

It is hard to find qualified teachers who would accept $50 a month. This school only has twelve.

Determined to persevere

Some of the children have to walk for between one
and three hours to return to their village
The reality in northeastern Afghanistan is that the classrooms are in temporary tents and children do not have any proper textbooks. But at least they are getting an education.

At the end of the first shift the children have to make the dangerous journey back home. Some have fallen and broken their arms crossing the river.

Back at the school, eight-year-old Husni excels at mathematics. He is a young boy with big dreams -he wants to be a doctor, an engineer or a teacher.

He says: "I know I will have a future and one day I will move to the city. I like coming to school."

For some of the children it takes an hour to walk back to their village. For others it could take up to three hours.

But for children like Husni however tough the journey might be, they are determined to persevere.

Al Jazeera
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