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Private education: curse or blessing?Written by Mohammad Reza Golkohi
Monday, 04 April 2011 08:52
Private schools and universities are mushrooming and so are concerns about the quality of their services.
As demands for better primary, secondary and higher education services rise private education is increasingly taking over the poorly-equipped and weakly-managed state schools and universities across the country.
More than 460 private schools have been registered at the Ministry of Education (MoE) over the past few years and their numbers are increasing day by day. About 200 of these schools are in the capital Kabul, according to MoE officials. Like elsewhere in the world, the services and facilities offered at private schools are different and so are their fees. Students pay 1,000 to 40,000 Afghanis per month depending on which schools they go and what services they expect.
Private schools are hailed as strong and effective auxiliaries to the national education system but are also criticized as weak, less effective and money-grabbers.
Karzai requested supervision
During the inauguration of the new educational year 1390, President Hamid Karzai lashed out at private schools and voiced his concern about the low quality of their services. He called on the MoE to put in place proper and stronger supervisions on the private schools in order to ensure their full compliance with quality standards.
However, Mr. Karzai fell short to point to widespread shortcomings and failures in the state-run schools where services are sometimes markedly worse than private schools. Many of the government-run schools lack adequate sanitation and safe drinking water facilities while thousands of schools are in the open air, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The quality of education services available at most state-run schools is also an issue of grave concern. Article 43 of the constitution obliges the state to provide free and equal education services to all citizens until undergraduate levels.
"Because state schools do not provide good services, I decided to send my children to a private school where they can learn better," said Amanullah Rahmani, a resident of Kabul.
Shortcomings in the state-run schools do not warrant or justify the failure of private schools in delivering satisfactory services.
"Private schools charge high fees but fail to deliver good quality services," alleged Amina, a mother of two. Lack of laboratories, recreation facilities and poor sanitation facilities are some of the main problems in private schools which were cited by parents and MoE officials alike.
"We try to supervise all their activities - from fee allocation to the curriculum and the facilities and other services," said Najeeba Nooristani, director of the private schools department at the MoE. "The aim is to create and consolidate an environment where both private and state-run schools provide quality services to the students."