As more than 4 million Afghan children prepare to return to school from next week after a particularly harsh winter, the United Nations Children’s (UNICEF) has been helping the Ministry of Education to provide basic classroom stationery and materials to schools nationwide. Although the difficult weather delayed distribution of some materials en route from Pakistan and classroom kits destined for northern provinces, tens of thousands of student kits have been prepared for more than 2 million children, containing materials such as exercise books, pens, pencils and other stationery.Full distribution to an estimated 4.3 million children is expected to be completed by mid-April.Underscoring Afghanistan’s major progress in managing its education sector, UNICEF noted that the ministry’s logistics centre – managed by the agency in 2002 – now has full responsibility for packing and distributing the kits. At present it is producing 5,000 student and teacher stationery kits per day.This year, students in Grades 1 and 4 will also benefit from new textbooks, developed in a partnership between the Government, UNICEF and Columbia University’s Teachers College. The new textbooks are more student-focused and relevant to the new Afghanistan, according to UNICEF, and mark a notable improvement in the quality of education delivery. While some 1.2 million girls have enrolled in Afghanistan’s primary schools since 2002, more than 1 million primary school age girls are still not attending classes. In addition to the support being provided for classroom materials and curriculum development, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education are focusing efforts on developing learning opportunities for girls in communities with no formal school, with the aim of providing education for an additional 500,000 girls in 2005.