In Afghanistan, most schools closed as the country’s government changed in August 2021. Over the following months they gradually opened for boys in all grades, but girls above grade six have been home for nearly 10 months.
There were plans that schools would open for all high school girls at the beginning of the Persian new year in March 2022, but that did not materialize.
Under both the prior government and the current one, CARE has provided community-based education and accelerated learning programs, primarily for girls. CARE hires the teachers, and classes take place in rooms in teachers’ houses in the communities where the students live. Class sizes range from a handful of students up to 25.
That said, programs for high-school-aged girls are not currently running.
Big dreams, uncertain prospects
“I came to these classes for two years,” says Taalah,* 14. “I liked coming here because of the quality of the teaching and the kindness of my teacher. It’s my wish that I complete the class to the end and then join formal education. I want to be a doctor when I grow up.
“I am really worried about my future if I can’t continue my education.”
Aabah* is one of the teachers both trained and employed by CARE in the community-based program. “I don’t want girls to have to depend on other people when they grow up,” she says. “They should be able to earn their own income. Knowledge is power. If they have knowledge, they will be strong people and help other people – they can reduce the misery of others. There would be brightness in the community.”
A basic right for everyone
Why community-based education? Some children live far from formal schools, and it may not be safe for them to travel long distances to attend classes. This problem is especially pronounced for girls, for whom busy roads and market areas hold unique perils.
“In some exceptional circumstances, boys can join classes,” notes Arezoo, supervisor of CARE’s Leave No Girl Behind project. “There was a boy with a disability, and he couldn’t travel to the formal school, so he joined a class.”
CARE continues to press for educational opportunities to be opened to all, regardless of gender. “Every human should enjoy basic rights,” Arezoo says. “Education is a basic right for everyone.”
“The first step for a successful community is education.”
“If a person is educated, they find their own way in life. They know good from bad. If a woman has been educated, she can guide her children, and that leads to a better society.”
For girls like Taalah, who is continuing to study at home while waiting for schools to reopen, education is a lifeline – or, at least, a potential lifeline. “I am worried about the economic situation in Afghanistan,” she says. “My father died and my mother doesn’t work. One of my brothers was a daily wage earner. Now there is no one earning an income in my family.
“My hope for girls in Afghanistan is that they can continue their education and that they don’t have to be dependent on others.”