“At IIEP, I gained all the technical, managerial, and analytical skills and qualities required for an educational planner and manager”

10 July 2023


Trent Inness/Shutterstock.com
A remote village school in the Bamyan district in central Afghanistan.

Meet Shakir Habibyar, an educational planner from Afghanistan. Just over a decade ago, in 2011, he pursued the former Advanced Training Programme at IIEP-UNESCO. During this time, he acquired a range of skills that enabled him to excel in his position in the Ministry of Education, specifically in pursuit of education for girls. Today, he says that the use of ICTs for gender equality is indispensable. 

IIEP: Can you tell us about what you did in the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan?

Shakir Habibyar: I was involved since 2011 in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national education programme and projects implemented by the Afghan Ministry of Education and the National Commission for UNESCO with the technical and financial support of the international partners and agencies specifically UNESCO, World Bank, and DANIDA. I have actively assisted in the formulation of educational policies, in the preparation and implementation of the National Education Strategic Plans (NESPs) technically supported by IIEP-UNESCO, in conducting the annual education sector reviews and in reporting the educational achievements. 

IIEP: During that time, what were the key challenges that were then hampering girls’ access to education?

Shakir Habibyar: After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, despite significant progress in enrolment at all levels still 38% of school-age girls did not have a chance to go to school due to various challenges such as: 

  • Insecurity,
  • Poverty, 
  • Lack of female teachers,
  • Low quality of education, 
  • Cultural and religious limitations, 
  • Early or forced marriage, 
  • Shortages of schools and infrastructure, 
  • Illiteracy of parents.

IIEP: What kinds of solutions were being tried and tested? What was most successful? 

Shakir Habibyar: In consultation with the international partners and donor agencies, many flexible strategies were drawn and implemented considering the above-mentioned challenges and bearing in mind the context of Afghanistan as a fragile state. The following strategies were tried: increasing awareness of parents on the importance of girls’ education, provision of incentives for girls from low economic background, formation of School Protection Committees, employment of qualified female teachers, construction of more girls’ schools and classrooms, improving teacher qualification through effective training, provision of infrastructural facilities and school textbooks. All of these solutions were effective. 

IIEP: How did the IIEP training course support you in your missions?



Shakir Habibyar: During my studies at IIEP, I gained all the technical, managerial, and analytical skills and qualities required for an educational planner and manager, which undoubtedly supported me and helped the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan.

I was able to assist technically in the preparation of education sector plans and strategies. I have implemented twelve projects on girls’ education, gender equality, and awareness raising of parents on the importance of educating girls. My coordination and communication skills enabled me to successfully get engaged with education stakeholders and donor countries who were undertaking the efforts of education development in Afghanistan. During my service, I was able to maintain effective working relations with the UNESCO Regional Office in Bangkok, its national office in Kabul, and other UNESCO National Commissions.

IIEP: Looking at the situation today, do you feel that all the progress you and your colleagues achieved is lost today?

Shakir Habibyar: I and my colleagues served the Afghan Ministry of Education for more than a decade and honestly speaking, education in Afghanistan had made remarkable progress both in terms of quantity and quality –around 9.5 million boys and girls were going to school but regretfully today girls are denied from going to lower secondary schools and this negatively affects the economy, social service delivery, and overall development of the country. What we delivered and achieved will be of course lost if the current regime continues to deny their right of going to school. 

IIEP: Do you see any open windows to reach those today who are denied their right to education? What can educational planners do specifically and around the world on the path to securing gender equality in and through education?  

Shakir Habibyar: In my point of view, it is necessary that the world community should actively engage with and continue asking the current government in charge of Afghanistan to open the doors of schools for girls. They should spare no effort in convincing them that no religion including Islam denies the education of girls. On the other hand, I urge the people of Afghanistan to continuously raise their voices for girls’ education.

Educational planners shall take into account the context of fragility and instability in some Member States and come up with some flexible strategies for reaching those who are vulnerable and remote.

I think the use of ICT is essential for the delivery of educational services. Online curriculum design and online classrooms will be effective in the context of fragility and cultural and religious limitations.

For the time being in Afghanistan, girls should be provided with online and home-based education to keep their right to education alive.