Afghanistan’s new annual academic cycle started on Saturday. According to the Ministry of Education, there are about 12 million Afghan children in schools with 42 per cent of them being girls. In 1999, when the Taliban were in power, no Afghan girl was enrolled in secondary school. But, in the wake of the fall of the Taliban regime, international assistance started to pour in, including through the United Nations, to improve the education sector. Despite this, some 1.3 million children of school-going age are still out of school. In his speech at a ceremony held to mark the start of the new academic year, President Hamid Karzai said education has made a huge difference in today’s Afghanistan when compared to its state 12 years ago. “We should try to reduce the number (of children not going to school) to zero. Education will make us strong and wealthy,” added Mr. Karzai.