Afghanistan Update: Making Education Possible – One Girl at a Time
What you may not be reading in the news, however, are the important gains that are being made; gains that wouldn’t be possible without the enormous courage of ordinary Afghans, the tireless work of CAI’s partners on the ground, and the dedicated support of CAI’s donors.
It’s true that, despite international pressure, the Taliban regime continues its war on women and girls. Since banning high school girls from returning to school last fall, the Taliban’s leadership has mandated women to wear head-to-toe burqas, prohibited them from going outside or traveling abroad without a male relative to accompany them, and further restricted their right to work. Draconian edicts like these are designed not just to wrest the most basic of human rights from female Afghans, but to erase them from Afghan society altogether.
But a lot has changed in the 20 years since the Taliban was last in power. Today, there is greater recognition among ordinary Afghans, including those living in rural areas, of the enormous value of education. Mothers, fathers, local community leaders, and religious scholars – not to mention youth and children themselves – are standing up for education, especially for girls. And thanks to your support, CAI is standing with them, and helping to meet that demand for education and for a better future.
Take Lobna. Lobna lives in a remote village in eastern Afghanistan along the border of Pakistan. By the time she turned 10, Lobna had never attended school because the only school in her district was too far away. When the Taliban took over her country last August, she began to lose hope altogether of getting an education and fulfilling her dream of one day becoming a doctor.
But that changed last March when CAI’s partner organization came to her village to establish a community-based school. By bringing teachers and classrooms to areas where no schools exist, community-based schools fill the gap and overcome the obstacles that girls like Lobna face in accessing education. The community provides a safe, private place for the classes to be held and CAI recruits and trains teachers and provides books, lesson materials, and school supplies.
I am very happy because this is my first time going to school. Before this CBE class, school-age girls in my village couldn’t attend school because it’s too far away from my village. Now, every morning, I get up filled with happiness and am overjoyed as I walk 20 minutes with the other girls to get to the class. – Lobna
Over the past four months, with CAI support, more than 180 community-based classrooms have been established across remote and impoverished parts of northern and eastern Afghanistan. More than 5,700 children – the majority girls – are now enrolled in these schools. And next year, CAI hopes to increase that number.
From time to time, local Taliban members have tried to interfere. However, because the community-based schools are established with the strong support of parents and village councils, the whole community becomes an advocate for education. When issues have arisen, it has been the local community that has negotiated with the Taliban and we’re happy to report that so far, these issues have been resolved successfully and peacefully.
CAI is also supporting Afghan women and girls in other ways. We’re recruiting young women to be teachers and piloting at-home learning for high school girls in parts of the country where the Taliban has forced them to drop out of school. The Taliban may continue to throw up roadblocks but as long as there is a demand from Afghans for education, CAI will work to do all we can to make education available.
With all the crises at home and abroad, it can be hard to keep focused on the plight of Afghan women and girls. But now is not the time to close our ears, to turn away from our Afghan sisters, or to give up hope for a more peaceful, equitable Afghanistan. Rather, this is the time for us to stand in solidarity with Afghan women and girls as they face dark forces who seek to take away their choices in life and the possibility of a better future. They are holding out hope because CAI supporters like you are making education possible, despite the challenges.
At CAI, never before have we been more inspired by the people we serve; by children like Lobna who despite the Taliban, is imagining a better future for herself and her country because she now has access to education. We hope you’ll be inspired too.
Attending school is very important for all Afghans because we learn everything in school which enables us to serve our country and people in the future. Like boys, it is also important for girls to attend school because they become teachers, doctors, and engineers like boys do. I would like all families to let their girls to attend school. All girls should have the opportunity to learn to read and write and become who they want to be. – Lobna