For 20 years CAI has focused our efforts on educating people, especially women, in the most remote areas of the world, knowing they will have the biggest impact. This journey is long and difficult, and we’ve learned that even the best-laid plans sometimes need to shift. This is the case with the Ray-e-Abisham primary school in Ishkashim, Afghanistan, one of the featured projects we’ve been writing about in our Spring Construction Campaign.
On April 28, militant factions of the Taliban launched their spring offensive in northern Afghanistan with their sites set on causing disturbances in Badakhshan. With Afghan forces occupied on the border with Pakistan, militant forces briefly took over Zebak district and began a push into Ishkashim and other nearby districts. Afghan security forces deployed to the area and pushed these militant groups out of Ishkashim and re-took Zebak, but the situation remains tenuous.
Jim Thaden CAI’s executive director has been following news reports and speaking daily with our in-country contacts on the ground to assess the situation with our primary focus on safety. Together with CAI’s board of directors and the project’s main sponsors, Andrew and Margrit Staehelin, Jim announced Ray-e-Abisham Primary School construction is on hold.
“Because of increased violence in the area as reported in the news and by our sources on the ground, we’ve taken a look and we’re being responsible to our donors until it’s clear what will happen in the region,” Jim explains. “We have a responsibility to our employees, students, and teachers to keep them safe, so we are putting this project on hold.”
CAI remains committed to educating girls in Afghanistan. We stand by our belief that education is the antidote to war, poverty, and extremism. Education can extinguish hate with understanding and create the foundation for change.
These reasons are exactly why the primary school topped our list of spring construction projects, spearheaded by the determination and support of two donors, Andrew and Margrit Staehelin. Both grandparents and retired teachers, they pledged a significant sum to construct seven classrooms, five toilets, a boundary wall, and a security fence.
Though disappointed to learn about the uncertainty of the situation in Ishkashim, they are both in full agreement to postpone the school until the area is safer for students and employees in the local area.
The Staehelins remind us that education in this area is not a quick fix, and this setback will not derail the dreams of Ray-e-Abisham. “Educating girls is a long-term project,” says Andrew. “I believe this project will eventually bring more equality into women’s lives, enable women to contribute more to Afghan society by enriching villages and towns, and reduce fighting and war.”
“We have to think of generational changes in societal expectations for women,” he continues. “Educating girls now will help Afghanistan become a more modern and tolerant country during the next fifty years.”
CAI will continue to monitor the situation both on the ground and through news reports. Though we will miss the short building season in this mountainous and snowy region of Afghanistan, there may be other ways to help students in Ray-e-Abisham if security improves, like bringing tents and supplies for temporary schools.
“We remain fully committed to education in the region,” affirms Jim Thaden. “Our methods may have to change, but our long-term commitment to educating women remains.”
We will move forward with many other projects, including the rest outlined in the 2017 spring campaign, like Diamer High School, Garhill Preschool, Kishmanjo foot bridge, and the nine Pakistan schools in need of repair. If you would like to find our more about them, please visit our campaign page.
Many thanks to our overseas partners on the ground in Afghanistan and their tireless efforts towards educating all children, to Andrew and Margrit Staehlin for their commitment to educating future generations, and to you, our supporters who join us each step on this long and winding journey towards peace through education.
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