Taliban allow UNICEF’s informal schools educate 140,000 children

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KABUL: The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has come to an understanding with the Taliban to set up thousands of informal schools in areas controlled by the insurgent group. 
UNICEF will support the establishment of 4,000 community-based education classes across Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Faryab provinces, said Sam Mort, the agency’s chief of communications, advocacy and civic engagement in Afghanistan. 
Currently, there are 680 such informal classes already taking place across these provinces, she said, adding each class could accommodate up to 35 students, and the new classes were expected to begin in March
Mort said the plan aims to ensure that every child, especially girls, in remote areas, can go to school safely and securely – as many as 140,000 children will be covered by the program. 
“Currently, 60 percent of the children that are out of school are girls and that increases to 80 percent in some hard-to-reach areas,” Mort said.
According to Mort, the agreement is the result of about two years of negotiations with local Taliban leaders and those based in Doha.  
She told VOA News that ongoing UN-led polio vaccination drives had prompted the discussions about what other services the Taliban and their community wanted. 
“The fact that the Taliban asked UNICEF to support them with other services, beyond polio drops, to help their children survive and thrive, is a breakthrough moment,” she said.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the insurgent group’s agreement with UNICEF. “We believe it is a good step and we will prepare the ground for the establishment of these schools in areas under our control,” Mujahid told VOA.