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UNICEF, Taliban Agree On Community-Based Classes For Children In Afghanistan

Schoolgirls study at an outdoor classroom in the rural district of Laghman Province in November 2012. (file photo)

UNICEF has reached an agreement with the Taliban to expand community-based education classes in Taliban-controlled areas to serve more than 100,000 children, including girls.

UNICEF spokeswoman Sam Mort told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi, that about 680 community-based classes are already operational and the goal is to increase the number to about 4,000.

Mort said community-based education classes are small -- 25 to 35 students – and often take place in people’s homes in hard-to-reach areas and villages. She stressed that they are not schools, but they use the national curriculum.

“What we want to do with these 4,000 classes is to reach between 100,000 and 140,000 children, including girls,” Mort said.

“Our priority in the last 15 years has been to bring girls into mainstream education,” she said. "We have a challenge of getting girls into school. We also have a challenge of accessing Taliban-controlled areas and we also have a challenge about overcoming very difficult terrain in Afghanistan."

The Taliban's political bureau has not commented on the agreement with UNICEF.

According to UNICEF, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are deprived of education. The biggest cause is insecurity and violence, but natural disasters and poverty have also been cited as factors.

The provinces where the classes are currently operational are Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Faryab.

UNICEF discussed establishing the classes initially at the local level and more recently conversations advanced to “a much higher level” at peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar, Mort said.

UNICEF already has a polio prevention program for Afghanistan, and with that as a backdrop, discussions expanded into other services such as water, sanitation, and education.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi
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    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi

    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.