Twenty years of investment increased enrollment up to ninefold. Private universities have popped up across the country’s urban centers.
But like many other things, the education effort has been marred by deep corruption, and the official numbers have often come into question. In recent years, violence has also taken a deep toll, with more than 1,000 schools shut because of attacks. According to UNICEF, a third of all school-aged children remain out of school.
The bombing at Mawoud Academy in Kabul, which Ms. Alizada attended, was claimed by an offshoot of the Islamic State that has exploited the complicated battlefield in Afghanistan, attacking soft targets like mosques, schools and hospitals. The lecture hall had been so packed, and the explosion so powerful, that at least 40 people were killed and more than 60 others wounded.
Most of the victims were underprivileged children from small villages in central Afghanistan, a largely ethnic Hazara part of the country. Many stayed in Kabul, the capital, at $15-a-month hostels away from their families in order to pursue their educations. Some of their coffins made it back to the villages. Others, including a pair holding 19-year-old twins, ended up buried on a Kabul hilltop.
Ms. Alizada, who is Hazara, is originally from the Jaghori district of Ghazni Province, but her family of five has been on the move in search of a better life since she was an infant. Her family lived in western Herat Province before moving to Kabul. In Herat, Ms. Alizada took free martial arts classes, but she had to give up her training in Kabul, as the lessons there were too expensive.
Her father is a coal miner in northern Afghanistan, making it home only every six months.
“The phone connection in Samangan is really bad,” Ms. Alizada said, referring to the northern province where her father works. “Last night at 8 p.m., I finally managed to talk to my father. He was so happy he was in tears.”