Education and more education mean more earning power. In Afghanistan, those extra earnings are often just pocket change but a new drift is emerging which translates to more than pocket change.
Abraham started a new career. He sells phone top up cards in his new shop. He has some other products but finds it hard to compete with his neighbour shops. The only thing he can sell is phone top up card; even that doesn’t pay off well but the shop is better than his old job in Iran which had no pay. Abraham is back in the neighbourhood where he is known as Powderi. Don’t get it wrong; he is not an addict contrary to the impression one would get from his nickname. Nevertheless the word ‘powder’ is used around the shop rows to refer to Heroin, something sold next to him. in the shop which only opens for a few certain hours after customer agreed to meet at a certain time. Abraham is a fostered child; he was brought up on formula which is a form of powder. Abraham has six or seven of each Roshan, Itesalat, NTM and AWCC top up cards at various denominations keeping it in his pocket as he sunwarms outside his shop. ‘200 units of MTN’ said a boy while holding a 500 note in his hand. Abraham started to fumble through the collection to find the 200. ‘what are you doing? Do you have MTN ’ said the boy. Abraham give the boy a 500 unit but the boy told him it was more than what he needs. Then the boy pointed to the 200 unit and asked Abraham to give it to him. ‘hang on! It is not 200 units. Are you sure it is 200?’. Abraham can’t read, he relies on customer to choose one but also makes a quarrel to ensure the customer is not taking more. it took him about 10 minutes to choose the right denomination and count the correct amount of change.
The next day when I came to hang out with Abraham he was sad and had bad news he had lost 400 Afgs; after which had had given up on selling top up cards. A customer got a 500 worth credit for 100Afgs. Abraham was not sure; he had got to know the colours and design; ‘the pink one is 500 units, you need a green’. But there was no way he could be certain.
Education and basic literacy seem to pay off better than ever. Better education is the way for many Afghans seeking better life through greater income. not everybody can be a minister, religious politician, judge and police chief or a relative of these which are the shortcuts to being rich. It is interesting to note that this relationship between education and earnings potential has been realised in the last five years. Education for the older generation meant a modest life, quite often worst than illiterate entrepreneurs, but it ensured no hard labour. In fact the difference in income level with education has grown significantly after the educated managed to set up businesses or found lucrative jobs in the reconstruction efforts after international intervention.
We are four years to the end of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) yet in Afghanistan the general literacy rate is only 29%. Today some of this 29% have the opportunity today to reap the benefits they grew with their pens. For many youths literacy is central to developing the many skills that they require to survive and make money. This is all truer when a country and its populace have been decimated. After decades of war, 43% of the Afghan population is under 15 years of age.
Many girls enjoy good income working for international organisation and businesses; yet there the common public is dubious of it being a social trend. It is rather seen as ephemeral; reaffirmed by the perception of the government reflected in their girls empowerment policy. despite 85% of women and girls being illiterate in Afghanistan, the state allocated budget fund in this regard constitute a few million dollar a fragment of President Karzai’s business profit.
In Afghanistan, the number of girls going to school is less than half the number of school boys, and even in some regions like Zabul, this ratio is 3% / 97%; though the number of male and female populations aging between 6-18 year old dont have a considerable difference.
I was relaxing on a stone in the corner of a street in a residential part of west Kabul. Young boys and girls carrying a bag or books attracted my attention as they walk about their business. My first instinct was they probably go to school; I shortly found out Abuzar Ghafari School was close by. I decided to go and check out the school. At first I had mistaken the place for a prison or military post until I noticed the children hustling by the entrance gate. They were not allowed in; I waded my way through the crowd to reach the gate. I found the school empty. There were not many teachers around, the few present were keeping warm in a sunny corner. I asked the teacher if they were going to teach today but apparently they are off and students are not supposed to be here. I did not get answer when I asked ‘then what are you doing here?’. Students shouting aloud were neither interested in studying. On the part of teachers, not everybody wants to work. Employees rather goof around until the pay day; it takes a bit of professionalism, feeling responsible and organisational procedures to get teacher into classes. Students general rather dodge studying, it is up to adults to get them interested and get them into the habit of studying. Students tend to escape school, fences and barbwire were set up to keep the children inside the compound. When students are not educated in the school but confined to the compound it inevitable culminates in dire consequences including school seen as a waste of time and abridged interest by parents to send children to school. Imprisoned students develop an attitude to commit vandalism, bullying and fatal accidents. Abuzar Ghafari school was recently built by Turks, the construction work is not yet finished while buildings, chairs, tables and windows have been damaged or destroyed. Students daily smash windows and doors in order to gain access to places where they are not supposed to go or steal books or other school property.
Bullying is very common on school compounds. Educators have a duty to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. But they are part of bullying; educators from headmaster to school watchman in turn beat students. Often teachers get a group of bullies to beat another student. Bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial and/or violent behavior. Children who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to:
• Get into frequent fights;
• Be injured in a fight;
• Vandalize or steal property;
• Drop out of school; and
Children as young as age of 9 have realised they need to learn to have a better income; many turn to private training centres for education. In a small residential suburb in west of Kabul there are around 10 private centres teaching English, Computer, Math and Science. I went to visit one which was pack with students aging from 30 to 8.
In Jowzjan province girls are unable to go to school because there is no school for girls. Private literacy and training centres are mushrooming including two in Gharghin district. Family poverty is the formidable factor for inability of children to go to schools. Average income per capita is less than $US 200 in Afghanistan. Meanwhile only 13.5% of families have access to sustainable income sources and economic vulnerability of families has direct impact on lack ofeducation.
Virtually all Afghan girls are children workers but they are not paid and regarded as working children. Girls as young as six years old are doing household work; this is full day work plus looking after children.
The economics of politics in Afghanistan will sustain current market oligopoly. The influence of political forces on the economy combines market and employment performance elements to exclude many from taking part and enjoying the benefits of participation. Some aspects which could result in exclusion are social and economic structures, gender relations, ethnic identities and spatial patterns of production. In the present condition this pattern of market performance is reinforced. The theory of dripping from rich to the poor has a wide application, even to the condition of Afghanistan.