- March 18, 2013
The Untold Story of Afghan Progress
There are over eight million schoolchildren, 2.6 million of them girls. In 2001: 900,000 boys and practically no girls.
By SAAD MOHSENI
Mr. Mohseni is the chairman of MOBY Group, Afghanistan’s largest media group with additional holdings in the Middle East and South and Central Asia.
The conventional wisdom about Afghanistan runs something like this: The country is a lost cause. Almost nothing has changed. The people remain backward and thankless, and there is little benefit for the international community to stay engaged in the country’s future.
This is far from the truth. Despite many years of conflict, Afghanistan has exhibited dramatic signs of economic, social and cultural revival. The country has undergone such extraordinary change since 9/11 that a return to the dark period of the Taliban is unfathomable.
One source of the misconception about my country is the Afghan government’s combative relationship with the international community. But the government doesn’t reflect the views of the public. Most people in Afghanistan remain strongly supportive of international engagement and widely approve of the presence of troops from other countries.
With a population of 35.3 million, according to the World Bank, Afghanistan is a young nation. The median age is 17, and 60% of the people are under age 20. This generation is like no other in the country’s history. Today, there are over eight million children enrolled in schools—and 2.6 million of those students are girls. In 2001, the nation’s classrooms seated only 900,000 boys and practically no girls. The literacy rate is currently 33% and is set to grow to 60% by 2025 and to 90% by 2040.