Afghanistan’s community schools offer hope in remote impoverished areas

A community school operating in the open. (Photo courtesy: Ahmad Seiar/UNICEF)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Afghanistan’s community schools offer hope in remote impoverished areas

KABUL: The revival of education for girls in remote areas of Afghanistan, particularly as they were once barred from schooling by the Taliban regime, is a success story not only for the country, but for the world.
Conservative Afghan families were often unwilling to allow their daughters to leave the house to go to school, especially when that could involve a journey of many miles. So the Afghan Ministry of Education, along with UNICEF and other donors — who pay the teachers’ salaries and cover other expenses — created the “We Bring Schools to Your Homes” initiative for remote areas where there were no government-operated schools available.
“When you hold classes in people’s homes in a village, then there are no obstacles for people to send their girls [to school] and no excuse for others to block girls from acquiring education,” Kabir Akmal of the Afghan education ministry told Arab News.
Some villagers have set up makeshift classrooms in open areas, under trees, in small rooms in their homes, and even in mosques, to provide education to girls within their own village, Akmal added.
Last year, he said, 6,985 community-run classrooms were operating in 30 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This year — Afghanistan’s academic year begins in March — that number will increase to 8,000, Akmal claimed.
“That is all because of the interest and eagerness of people who want to learn,” he said.
The teachers in these community-based classrooms receive higher salaries than those in official government schools, Akmal claimed. He added that their priority is to educate girls, as boys face few, or no, restrictions on travel.
“Community support has been critical to the success of community-based education, especially in conflict-affected areas,” Feridoon Aryan, a public affairs official in Kabul, told Arab News.
An estimated 3.5 million children, 75 percent of whom are girls, remain out-of-school in Afghanistan, Aryan said.
He added that a nationwide lack of infrastructure, educational materials and qualified female teachers are among the chief obstacles to improving school attendance and learning outcomes, but added that community-based education offered hope for the future.
“Recognizing the value of education, communities themselves provide locations for education centers — for example in homes or mosques — promote education and school attendance, especially for girls, and provide appropriate and safe spaces for learning,” he said.


German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 16 min 28 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.