WASHINGTON – President Bush says that when hundreds of girls in Afghanistan set foot in a classroom for the first time this month, many will find notebooks, pencils, crayons and soccer balls purchased with money from American children.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush told listeners that $4.5 million has been raised by U.S. children to support education in Afghanistan.
"America's children have been extremely generous in helping the children of Afghanistan," Bush said.
Bush began a national campaign to raise money for Afghan children during a speech in October, asking each American child to earn $1 and send it to the White House.
Since the war in Afghanistan began, the United States has also sent more than four million textbooks, written in the Afghan languages of Pashto and Dari.
Before year's end, the United States will have sent almost 10 million textbooks to Afghan children, Bush said.
"These textbooks will teach tolerance and respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry," Bush said.
Bush said working for a better educated Afghanistan will provide youngsters with "an alternative to bitterness, resentment and hatred."
When schools reopen in Afghanistan in the coming weeks, women and girls will be allowed into the classroom for the first time in years.
Educating girls will lead to a more stable Afghanistan, Bush said.
"Under the Taliban regime, educating women was a criminal act," Bush said. "Under the new government of a liberated Afghanistan, educating all children is a national priority. And America, along with its coalition partners, is actively helping in that effort."
Afghanistan's education system has been suffering since the Soviet invasion in the early 1980s, and it nearly ceased functioning altogether in the mid-1990s under Taliban rule.
The Taliban forbade girls under 9 to attend school, and boys' schooling was often limited to Islamic teachings.
The nation's new curriculum is temporary but includes subjects such as math, science, Islamic studies, friendship and awareness of land mines, said Nazar Muhammad Karyab, adviser to the Afghan Education Ministry who is in Peshawar to supervise printing.