A spotlight on Jighai and Behsud schools program, Afghanistan

By Ali Reza Yunespour, Partnership Coordinator

positive results for graduating students

The Kankor exams in Afghanistan, which are the equivalent of Australia’s year 12 exams, took place in Afghanistan in June and August this year. Across the country, a reduced number of students sat the exams due to the pandemic. In Ghazni and Maidan Wardak Provinces, where indigo foundation has supported a network of 22 schools and teachers over the past 17 years, the smaller number of students sitting the exam reflected the national trend.

When compared to the nation-wide rates, we are excited to share that our partner high schools in Ghazni and Maidan Wardak Province had both a higher percentage of girls sitting the exams and a higher percentage of students accepted into state-funded higher education institutions.

For example, 229 students, including 72 girls, graduated from 14 high schools that indigo foundation has supported in the Borjegai and Jirghai communities of Ghazni Province and Behsud community of Maidan Wardak Province in the past 17 years.

According to Afghanistan’s higher education law, school graduates have the right to participate three times in the national admission exams (known as Kankor). This year, 140 students, including 52 girls (around 35%), from indigo-supported high schools participated in the Kankor exams.

Around 85 percent of students from our partner high schools were offered courses in state-funded university and non-university higher education institutions. Of this, around 70 percent of the Kankor participants were accepted into public universities and a further 15 percent in diploma-granting higher education institutions. The majority of the other 15 percent have been found eligible to enrol in private higher education institutions.

Nationally, 173,432 students, or around 70 percent of all school graduates, participated in the Kankor exams across the country this year. Among them were 22,220 girls, or around 12 percent of the total. Around half of these Kankor participants were accepted in the state-funded higher education institutions, including around a quarter in public universities.

In the past two decades, the higher education landscape has changed rapidly in Afghanistan. The number of public higher education institutions has grown from seven in 2002 to 38 institutions in 2019 and the number of private higher education institutions has increased from zero in 2005 to 128 in 2019. Since 2018, more than half tertiary students were enrolled in the private higher education institutions.

Nevertheless, the growing insecurity and poverty, as well as male dominated socio-cultural norms, have undermined equitable access to higher education in Afghanistan. Female students made just over a quarter of the total 424,621 students who were enrolled in the higher education sector in 2019. The majority of these girls are from the urban centres such as Kabul, Herat and Balkh and more secure provinces and districts of the country.

opening of Shadab High School, Behsud

Over the past six months, our partners were forced to suspend school building works because they could not transport building materials into villages due to the pandemic. Now our partners are slowly resuming works – their first priority being to establish a water well at a school that ensures clean water for around 250 students and school personnel, and allows use by the wider community during religious and cultural community gatherings.

Despite a difficult six months, one of our partner schools, Shadab High School, held a formal opening ceremony on 20 September for their new school building (photos below). This followed the decision by the Afghan Ministry of Education to allow public schools to reopen for grades 11 and 12 and private schools (mostly based in urban centres) to reopen for all primary and secondary students.

The Shadab school building was completed and the school opened in late 2019. However, the ceremony to mark the opening was delayed due to the onset of winter and Covid-19 causing the closure of schools across Afghanistan.

Shadab High School building is the fifth school building indigo foundation has worked on with the Behsud community in the past four years. Our Kabul-based Financial Trustee attended the opening, as did the Director of Behsud District’s education department, who delivered a message on behalf of the Afghan government acknowledging the joint program by the Jirghai and Behsud Shura and indigo foundation.

Amidst security, economic and pandemic challenges in Afghanistan, our support for rural education has maintained community harmony and resilience in these rural communities and helped young children and their families remain hopeful for a secure and peaceful future in Afghanistan.”

an uncertain political climate

The Afghan Government and the Taliban representatives commenced the intra-Afghan ‘peace talks’ in Doha, Qatar, in September. This followed the initial agreement between the United States and the Taliban on 29 February this year and the release of prisoners from both sides in the past few months.

Most Afghans (over 80%) and the international community have supported this process and there are hopes that the intra-Afghan negotiations end the 40-year conflict and result in an enduring peace in Afghanistan. However, in the past months, the negotiators have struggled to find common frameworks and negotiation principles ahead of agreeing mutual agenda items. The Taliban has demanded that negotiations should happen based on the Hanafi jurisprudence of Sunni Islam (effectively rejecting the constitutionally-accepted religious right of minority groups such as Shi’a Muslims) and the initial US-Taliban agreement. At the same time, violence has continued in most provinces of the country and has intensified in some districts since the start of intra-Afghan negotiations. Tragically, there have been two incidents in Kabul targeting young students, including students from Borjegai and Jirghai families.

Our partner communities and the majority in Afghanistan are deeply worried about political uncertainties and ongoing violence in their country. In such a challenging environment, we continue to work on a weekly basis with our partners to restart building works and support students get back to school after the interruption of Covid-19.