Teaching Students About Afghanistan

Afghanistan, a country situated at the crossroads of historic trade routes and empires, holds a rich cultural heritage and fascinating history. Teaching students about Afghanistan is essential to foster global citizenship, promote cultural awareness and appreciation, and deepen our understanding of geopolitics. This article will provide key insights into Afghanistan’s history, culture, and current events for teachers and students alike.


Afghanistan is a landlocked country located in South-Central Asia. It shares borders with Pakistan to the south and east, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast. Its diverse landscape encompasses rugged mountains, fertile valleys, expansive plateaus, and stark deserts. The Hindu Kush mountain range dominates the northeastern part of the country and serves as a natural barrier between northern Afghanistan’s Central Asian cultural influences and southern parts influenced by South Asia.


Afghanistan has a long history of conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane (Timur), and Arab rulers. In more recent times (19th century), Britain invaded the region to maintain control against Russian influence during ‘The Great Game.’ Afghanistan achieved independence in 1919 after three Anglo-Afghan wars.

From 1978 onwards, Afghanistan experienced continuous conflict driven by various factors such as power struggle among political factions, mujahideen (Islamic guerrillas) fighting against Soviet occupation (1979-1989), followed by civil war. The Taliban emerged victorious in 1996 but was ousted from power after the September 11 attacks in 2001 when US-led forces invaded Afghanistan.


Afghan culture is an amalgamation of its rich heritage spanning thousands of years. The majority of Afghans practice Islam with over 80% being Sunni Muslims and the remainder Shia. The practice of Islamic customs and traditions is woven into daily life, influencing aspects such as clothing, food, art, architecture, and social norms.

The main ethnic groups in Afghanistan are Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimak, Turkmen, Baloch, and several smaller groups. Each brings their unique cultural nuances to the fabric of Afghan society. Across Afghanistan’s regions, aspects such as clothing styles, handicrafts, and folktales showcase the depth and diversity of traditional Afghan culture.

Languages spoken in Afghanistan include Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pashto as official languages but also several regional minority languages.

Current Issues

Afghanistan continues to face challenges in multiple areas such as infrastructure development, health care, education, women’s rights, and security. In August 2021, the Taliban returned to power after US-led forces withdrew from the country following peace talks between both parties.

As students study Afghanistan’s present situation and history concurrently, they will begin to understand its complexities and learn valuable lessons about global politics and collective responsibility.

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