Monday, March 25

Heartening news

Last week was a good one for Afghan children -- especially girls. Even before the Taleban fewer than one in 10 girls attended school. Now, funded by the international community, education in Afghanistan looks set to enter a new era and girls, in particular, should have a better chance than ever.

BBC Online reports in 'Back to school in Afghanistan' (23 March) that more than 3,000 schools have reopened for the new school year. Getting the 1.8 million pupils back to school in time for the new term has been one of the biggest operations ever undertaken by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). Planes, jeeps and even donkeys have been used to get the books and teaching materials into place.

About half of Afghanistan's schools were destroyed under the Taleban. Many teachers fled, and more than half of Afghanistan's children still have no school to attend. But in the year ahead the Afghan authorities hope to absorb another two million children into the education system. In January the US pledged almost $300m to the country in the coming year, on top of $400m in humanitarian assistance committed by President Bush last autumn.