“Women who have undertaken an educational path are more likely to send their children to school… They can work and contribute to the family income, sharing with their husband the burden of sustaining, economically, the family and improving the quality of their life …” – Zarmina Malalai, senior officer in education, Womanity Foundation Afghanistan.
Under the Taliban regime Afghan women and girls were excluded from all levels of the education system; schools were destroyed and female teachers were prevented from working.
Since the regime’s fall in 2001, a record number of students have enrolled, including the highest percentage (36%) of female students in decades, but significant challenges remain. Continuing conflict coupled with the lack of infrastructure and trained teachers hinder the delivery of education. And, many girls are still missing out because of obstacles such as early marriage and cultural norms that oppose their education. Girls’ schools also remain a target for Taliban attacks.
In 2008, the Government of Afghanistan laid out an ambitious 5-year strategy for a national education programme. It includes commitments to construct new schools; to increase the enrolment of girls; to provide more training for teachers; and to introduce an updated curriculum. Even so, the quality of education remains in question, with benchmarks undefined and underfunded. Quality is key to keeping children at school longer and into higher levels of education. And, quality education will ultimately accelerate progress in Afghan society.
Our Approach And Actions
Since 2007, the Womanity Foundation has supported Afghanistan’s largest girls’ school – the Al Fatah School in Kabul – to become a model of excellence in girls’ education. Based on this experience, Womanity has developed a holistic approach that focuses on the quality of education offered to girls up to secondary school. The replicable approach, namedSchool in a Box: Advancing Girls’ Education in Afghanistan assists schools in the following ways:
Tailored capacity building for teachers alongside infrastructure improvements. In partnerships with the best local service providers, Womanity offers tailored training for teachers and school staff – based on their real needs. It equips science labs, libraries, playgrounds or gymnasiums. Womanity also offers tuition for the national university entrance exam, and a few university enrollment scholarships. Over 3 years Womanity will also run a health and hygiene education programme in supported schools.
Counseling for students to overcome obstacles to learning. Students are offered counseling (individually or in groups) to discuss anything that might be distracting them from their studies, such as family problems. If necessary the counselor mediates with families and schools to ensure girls’ wellbeing, or to find collective solutions.
Fostering community engagement and ownership. Activities are presented to shouras (local consultative groups made up of community representatives), school staff, and local Ministry of Education representatives. The aim is to tailor activities to specific needs, while also fostering supportive communities around schools. Inherent to this work is a deep respect for the costumes and traditions of Afghan society.
Our Current Activities
In partnership with Afghanistan Libre, Sports sans Frontières, and others and with funding from UBS Optimus Foundation, Womanity is expanding the new School in a Box model to 11 schools across the country (2011 to 2014). Meanwhile support for the Al Fatah School continues.
This effort is already benefiting 7,450 Afghan girls (and 2,550 boys) aged 6 to 18 studying at the first 6 participating schools in Kabul, Paghman district and Punjshir province. Meanwhile, 384 teachers and staff are receiving tailored training to improve their competences. Plans are being made to reach 6 more girls’ schools by 2014.
Our Results So Far
From 2007 to 2011, teachers, staff (200) and students (5,000) aged between 5 and 17, have benefitted from infrastructure improvements and training at the Al Fatah School. This involved rebuilding and renovating classrooms as well as other facilities; equipping the school with furniture, science and computing labs as well as teaching materials. It also involved organizing and funding skills development for teachers and staff in English, management, information and communication technology.
The Womanity Foundation developed the School in a Box model for improving education for girls. This model is now being replicated beyond Al Fatah School to 5 additional schools in Paghman and Punjshir. Plans are being made to reach a further 6 schools by 2014.
School communities have benefited from teacher and staff training in English, Pashtu, Dari, science, information and communication technology, management and teaching skills.
Physical education teachers have also benefited from a unique sports-training programme developed by Sport Sans Frontières. It aims to use sports and games to restore students’ confidence; prevent violence against women; HIV and drug addiction; and to build a culture of peace.
Afghanistan Libre, Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, Roshan Telecommunications, Sports sans Frontières, Samuel Hall, UBS Optimus Foundation.