These days, it takes more than textbooks and pencils to be a schoolgirl in Afghanistan—it also takes tremendous bravery and tenacity. Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan girls are theoretically free to attend school. But they are stymied at almost every turn by vicious militant attacks, a lack of adequate facilities and teachers, and even their own parents’ reluctance to break from the tradition that says “girls belong at home.”

The first challenge for girls’ education in Afghanistan is cultural barriers,” said Fazlul Haque, UNICEF Chief of Education for Afghanistan.

The way forward for girls is not easy--extremists in Afghanistan are doing their best to terrorize them out of going to school. In 2008 alone, there were 283 violent attacks on schools, resulting in 92 dead and 169 injured. Despite the obstacles and threats, Afghan girls are hungrier than ever for education. “Over 2.2 million girls are now in school,” said Fazlul Haque, “and we expect a 20 percent increase in primary school enrollment for girls by 2013, with help from UNICEF education programs.”

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    August 2012