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GoA, WB sign pact to expand EQUIP.

KABUL (PAN): The Government of Afghanistan and the World Bank, on behalf of the 30 donors of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) Tuesday signed two grant agreements worth US$44 million to expand the ongoing Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) and to establish the National Institute of Management and Administration (NIMA).

The agreement was signed by Dr. Omar Zakhailwal, Minister of Finance and Nick Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

Education is an essential ingredient for ensuring a prosperous Afghanistan, said Zakhilwal. Much has been achieved over the past seven years, but much more remains to be done, particularly with respect to education for girls.

We need to provide a safe environment in which students can learn, including through the construction of school buildings, so that parents are encouraged to send their kids to schools.

The ARTF funding (US$35 million) for EQUIP is designed to increase equitable access to quality basic education, with a special focus on girls through school grants, teacher training and strengthened institutional capacity.

EQUIP has forged a strong partnership with support from communities and private providers. Since the inception in 2004, over 822 school buildings have been rehabilitated or constructed, over 30,000 teachers trained and about 8,189 School Shuras have been established throughout the country.

The School Shuras are established to oversee the rehabilitation or construction of school buildings and for accessing quality inputs, such as teaching and learning materials. Much has been achieved in our education sector over the past 7 years.

Some11, 00 education institutions are now operating, reaching 6.2 million students, 35.5 percent of them girls. Yet, half of Afghanistan's school age children are out of school; this population represents seven percent of the world's out of school children,said Farooq Wardak, Minister of Education.

Equally, years of strife and conflict left Afghanistan devoid of skilled human capital and a massive skills deficit remains across all disciplines. This funding from ARTF will be critical to get more girls and boys into school and also increase the size of the available pool of qualified and readily employable junior management level personnel in various disciplines by1,500 every year.

The grant funding (US$9 million) to NIMA aims to support a component of the governments ongoing Afghanistan Skills Development Program. The program is designed to increase the number of skilled Afghans and create a high-quality technical vocational education and training system that is equitable, market responsive, and cost-effective.

The ARTF funding will specifically support the creation and renovation of existing available infrastructure for NIMA. The infrastructure includes residential accommodation for men and women, academic buildings, recreational buildings, and utility buildings.

The World Bank has supported the education sector since 2002 and, given the challenges, the results have been impressive, said Nick Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. Although much has been achieved, the challenges in education sector remain daunting, in particular the quality of education.

The Ministry of Education has set out clear vision for Afghanistans education sector in its National Education Strategic Plan (NESP 1385-1389). Through ARTF, donors are providing a critical and coordinated source of financing and policy advice to the government.

The World Bank is pleased to facilitate that partnership and looks forward to our further collaboration.

The World Bank has so far committed US$65 million grant for EQUIP in addition to US$20 grants assistance for Afghanistans Skills Development Project.

The fund has two windows: the recurrent window channels funding for the recurrent costs of government, including salaries for teachers, health workers, and civilian staff throughout the country.

The investment window channels funding for investment projects as per the ANDS: such as agriculture and rural development, justice, private sector development,capacity development, education, urban development, transport and energy.

As of March 20,2009, 30 donors had pledged over US$3 billion to ARTF, of which US$2.9 billion has been received. More than US$1.7 billion has been disbursed to the Government of Afghanistan to help cover recurrent costs and over US$1 billion had been made available for investment projects.

The ARTF is managed jointly by the Asian Development Bank,the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank.

Representatives of the Ministry of Finance participate in the monthly Management Committee meetings as observers. A Monitoring Agent ensures proper fiduciary management of all recurrent cost financing under the ARTF.

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Publication:Pajhwok Afghan News (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Geographic Code:0BANK
Date:Apr 15, 2009
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