Afghanistan’s community schools offer hope in remote impoverished areas

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SYED SALAHUDDIN
Tue, 2018-02-13 21:30
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1518535829529319600

KABUL: The revival of education for girls in remote areas of Afghanistan, particularly as they were once barred from schooling by the Taliban regime, is a success story not only for the country, but for the world.
Conservative Afghan families were often unwilling to allow their daughters to leave the house to go to school, especially when that could involve a journey of many miles. So the Afghan Ministry of Education, along with UNICEF and other donors — who pay the teachers’ salaries and cover other expenses — created the “We Bring Schools to Your Homes” initiative for remote areas where there were no government-operated schools available.
“When you hold classes in people’s homes in a village, then there are no obstacles for people to send their girls [to school] and no excuse for others to block girls from acquiring education,” Kabir Akmal of the Afghan education ministry told Arab News.
Some villagers have set up makeshift classrooms in open areas, under trees, in small rooms in their homes, and even in mosques, to provide education to girls within their own village, Akmal added.
Last year, he said, 6,985 community-run classrooms were operating in 30 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This year — Afghanistan’s academic year begins in March — that number will increase to 8,000, Akmal claimed.
“That is all because of the interest and eagerness of people who want to learn,” he said.
The teachers in these community-based classrooms receive higher salaries than those in official government schools, Akmal claimed. He added that their priority is to educate girls, as boys face few, or no, restrictions on travel.
“Community support has been critical to the success of community-based education, especially in conflict-affected areas,” Feridoon Aryan, a public affairs official in Kabul, told Arab News.
An estimated 3.5 million children, 75 percent of whom are girls, remain out-of-school in Afghanistan, Aryan said.
He added that a nationwide lack of infrastructure, educational materials and qualified female teachers are among the chief obstacles to improving school attendance and learning outcomes, but added that community-based education offered hope for the future.
“Recognizing the value of education, communities themselves provide locations for education centers — for example in homes or mosques — promote education and school attendance, especially for girls, and provide appropriate and safe spaces for learning,” he said.

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