Nearly 3 million girls out of school. A 63% illiteracy rate. 33% of girls married before their 18th birthdays. More than 40% of Afghan schools operating with no buildings more permanent than tents. An underqualified female teaching force. Girls at risk of violent assault -- with fists, with weapons, even with acid -- as they walk to and from school.
This is the state of girls' education in Afghanistan today: a reality driven by fragile security conditions, high poverty rates, a lack of well-trained female teachers, and persistent cultural norms that inhibit women's visibility in public life.
The past several years have seen a slow erosion in public support for girls' education: only 81% of Afghans agreed in 2016 that women should have equal educational opportunities with men, down from 91% a decade earlier, Many families, particularly in rural areas where the percentage of female students can be as low as 15%, must struggle against both this downturn in public opinion as well as the continued strength of traditional family practices that celebrate early motherhood and child-rearing.
In many cases, a girl who wants to attend school must first receive permission from her male relatives: not just from her father and brothers, but also from members of her extended family such as uncles and grandfathers. A girl (or a father) who chooses to ignore a relative's prohibition against education runs very real risks: SOLA has direct experience with a student whose father was warned that his life would be in danger if his daughter continued her education. This warning was delivered by the student's uncle -- her father's brother.