Afghanistan is facing a critical moment in which international assistance is urgently needed to prevent the collapse of its education system. Advances in education have come to symbolise the achievements in Afghanistan's reconstruction over the last 20 years, with more than 9 million children enrolled in school.

However, according to UNICEF, there are currently more than 4 million out-of-school children, with more than half of them being girls. The complex economic and humanitarian crisis that is engulfing the country is expected to get worse in the coming year and threatens to undo the progress of the previous two decades. Hundreds of thousands of teachers have gone unpaid for almost six months, with teachers in Herat province protesting to demand that the Taliban pay their salaries.

This fast-deteriorating situation threatens to trigger one of the worst education emergencies in the world. UNHCR has warned that nearly 23 million people are suffering from extreme levels of hunger, with nine million at risk of famine. With Afghan livelihoods threatened, many Afghan families will inevitably be forced into choosing survival over pursuing an education. There is a real risk that the quantity and quality of education will drop precipitously, with the madrassa re-emerging as the main form of schooling in Afghanistan and a lost generation of Afghan children being denied educational opportunities.

To mitigate the crisis, education must be prioritised over politics. The sanctity of education is a deeply-held social value, in part rooted in the centrality of education in Islam. "Read, in the name of your Lord," is the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)

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