"Building a school is lighting a candle in a community."
Student Aewaz Ali stands in front of his school in Bamyan Province, which was built by the District Development Assembly with support from UNDP. Progress has been made in education in Afghanistan but many challenges remain.
16 July 2011 Bamyan - Aewaz Alai is 13 years old, a sixth-grade student who spends two hours a day walking from his home in Afghanistan's central Bamyan Province to attend school. His story is typical of students in the region.
"There is a very high thirst for education," says Nabi Muzaffari, Bamyan provincial manager for UNDP's National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP). "There are students who walk three hours to school and three hours back home."
In the past decade, the Afghan government has put education as one of its top priorities, and more students than ever are attending schools in Afghanistan.But despite this, education still faces severe challenges.
"We used to study under tents," Aewaz says. "They were too hot in the summer and too cold in the spring. Our school is next to the main road of the village, and when vehicles came they would raise dust and disturb us a lot."
Khodadad, the Head Master,adds, "Students were not coming to school regularly and they didn't have enthusiasm for studying."
According to the Bamyan Education Department, currently there are 320 schools operating in Bamyan. However, 78 schools have no buildings.
To address this issue, UNDP recently helped residents and government officials of Bamyan to construct a school building. UNDP worked with the District Development Assembly (DDA) of Shahidan, a locally elected body, to identify and oversee construction of the district's priority projects. In 2007, the DDA began work on a school building at the cost of $170,000. And in 2008, the community officially inaugurated the Lado Shahidan Medal School.Today, the school has 400 students who study together until the ages of 14 or 15. Of these, 210 are girls.
Day by day, since the construction of the school, , students have performed well in their exams.
"I was in sixth position, but now I am in third position in my class," says Aewaz Ali. "We are now free from sun and dust, we have a good classroom and chairs, and we study with more interest."
"Building a school is lighting a candle in a community," says Nabi Muzaffari, NABDP provincial manager said. Muzaffari is proud of UNDP's contribution to education of Afghanistan. "Whenever I go to Lado Shahidan and see the school, I feel pride."
According to Bamyan's Education Director, Mohammad Reza Ada, Bamyan leads the way in terms of education for girls: 44% of school students are girls, he says, the highest in comparison with other provinces.
The National Area-Based Development Program (NABDP) supports communities to establish an integrated planning and implementation framework for rural development. The Programme implements most of its projects through Community Development Councils (CDCs)and District Development Assemblies (DDAs), which are elected representative bodies at the sub-national level. Since 2002, 384 districts have elected DDAs across Afghanistan.NABDP is funded by the governments of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, EU, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and UK.