Help The Afghan Children

Our mission is to help Afghan children become educated, healthy, and productive citizens who are able to fully contribute to building Afghanistan's civil society. We accomplish this by working with supporting partners to establish model community-based schools in different regions of Afghanistan; by providing training to local educators to enhance their professional capacities; and by developing and introducing innovative learning programs
Apr 6, 2015

The transformation of a school

The Paghman District of Afghanistan lies only 20 miles or so west of Kabul, Afghanistan's bustling capitol, but in many respects it is light years away.  The District has suffered through several wars.  Approximately 98% of the population has no electricity and there are not nearly enough schools to accommodate the District's children.

In one small part of this District there was a school, but it had no buildings, no facilities; not even chairs, or books or the most basic of supplies.  All this school had was a few caring men and women who wanted to teach and share their knowledge with the children living in the nearby community.  The only 'real school' in the area had been destroyed 25 years ago during one of several wars.

The word went out and amazingly, the children came.  They sat on blankets and mats in the open air.  A few lucky ones came with notebooks and pencils.  Others came from families too poor to afford any school supplies.  But they all had one thing in common; the desire to learn.

During the summer it got very hot and the only relief for the students and teachers was to conduct 'classes' under some of the large walnut trees nearby.  Because there were no lavatories, the students would have to walk a long distance to find a facility they could use.  When the Fall months arrived, the weather became cool, then cold, even in daytime.  But the weather or lack of facilities would not deter these children.  In November, the last official month of the school year, they came dressed in warmer clothes with many of them carrying blankets to wrap around their bodies as they sat shivering on the cold ground as their teachers (often shivering themselves), continued to teach lessons.

This same outdoor site became the inspiration for Help the Afghan Children's first model school.  Thanks to the generosity of donors, both large and small, a new school was built that would not only transform education in this area, but represent a model for the future of schools throughout Afghanistan.  After eight months of hard work, Abdulla bin Omar Primary School opened its doors for 850 students.  It boasted 26 classrooms, 7 administrative rooms, 2 guardrooms, a deep well and 12 sanitary latrines.  Also installed was a computer laboratory with fifteen computers, a network printer and a generator with fuel to power the equipment.

During the opening ceremonies, a group of students sang Afghanistan's National Anthem and HTAC's executive director, Suraya Sadeed along with the Ministry of Education's General Director delivered speeches.  One of the teachers was beaming from ear to ear.  Last year he conducted his classes on top of piles of stone and under the shade of trees.  Now he would teach in a real classroom with a chalk board, chairs and desks for the students, books and ample school supplies.  He glanced at some of the excited children who (before) had nothing, and there were tears running down his cheeks.  "Now they have something" he said.  "And I'm very proud to be associated with this wonderful school to teach them."

Abdullah bin Omar currently serves approximately 1,600 students in two shifts and has 41 teachers.  HTAC relies on donors to help support this school..

Apr 3, 2015

Stop violence against women by educating men

The world was recently shocked and horrified over a video showing a mob of angry Afghan men beating to death and burning a 27 year old Afghan woman named Farkhunda who was accused of allegedly burning a Q'uran; a claim that was later proven false.  Sadly, in death, Farkhunda earned her 15 minutes of fame as the media, world leaders and others condemmed her brutal killing and for a brief moment, the plight of Afghan women became a news item.

Then, just as predictably, the media and the world moved on to the next big story and Farkhunda's death became an after-thought.  But the real tragedy is, thousands of Afghan women and girls are beaten, abused, raped and killed every year and no one knows their names. 

Despite constitutional laws designed to protect women and girls, beatings, abuses, harassments and deaths are commonplace throughout Afghanistan, from small remote villages to large urgan cities like Kabul.  As a male dominated society, most Afghan women are treated as commodities and second class citizens.  In many homes women are beaten (not just by their husbands), but by other female family members.  Boys quickly learn that they are favored over their sisters.  This significantly impacts their attitudes about girls and women as they grow older.  Many girls who reach puberty are pulled from school and forced into early marriages with men who often abuse them and prevent them from working, voting and participating in local civic affairs, even though Afghanistan's Constitution gives women these rights.

HTAC's project of preventing violence against women and girls is changing attitudes and behaviors of men and communities in targeted regions of the country where we work.  Our project has four objectives:  1) teach and motivate male leaders to respect and value women as community partners by including and involving them in local councils; 2) educate and train parents and other adults on the use of non-violent conflict resolution methods in homes, thereby reducing abuse and threatening behavior toward women and girls; 3) educate Afghan boys in schools to reject violence and adopt the principles of peaceful, everyday living, which has historically reduced fighting and aggressive behaviors; and 4) educate women and girls about their constitutional rights and protections and empower them to take more active roles in local community affairs.

Our task will not be easy and we face enormous challenges, but through education and your help, we can begin to transform a culture that moves from violence to one of peace and cooperation.  If we want to honor women like Farkhunda and thousands like her who have died violent deaths, this is a good way.  Lets make sure that girls (like 7th grader Atifa shown here), will grow up in a safe environment so they can lead productive, fulfilled lives,.

Mar 13, 2015

Computers come to Paghman schools

The teenaged girls lined up in orderly fashion, patiently waiting to receive their much-needed school kits.  Many of them came from families too poor to afford even the most basic school supplies and they were grateful as they opened their bags to find notebooks, pens, pencils and tablets.  Many of the girls were grateful to even being able to attend school, since it was not unusual for girls past puberty to remain at home, helping with household chores and waiting for a marriage proposal.

But what these and other girls in nearby schools really wanted was to be in a computer class.  They knew that if given the chance, learning computer skills would change their lives forever.  Upon their graduation, they could seek the computer related jobs that were beginning to appear in their district; jobs that were being filled by young men.  Or, they could find work in Kabul where there were even more opportunities.  Without any marketable skills they would not have much of a life.  These girls wanted to be productive and be able to help their families. Computer skills would give them that and something else; dignity.

Paghman is a district known for its beautiful setting at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountain range, its fruit trees and famous gardens.  It is also an underserved region of the country with few schools and insufficient resources to support a growing population of school-aged children.  Sadly, girls' schools tend to be less supported than schools for boys.

Two years ago, the girls politely asked their teacher if a computer class might be coming to their school in the future. Their teacher did not want to dash their hopes, but she didn't want to raise their expectations either.  She was aware that HTAC had been working hard to bring the first computer education program to several schools in the area, including theirs. "One day" she told them. "People are raising money to bring this program to our school." This past year they asked again.  She knew we were closer in securing funds for a computer class, but she was cautious in her response to her students. 

This spring, HTAC gave this teacher and her students a huge surprise.  When we brought in and began assembling the computer equipment at the school, the village buzzed with excitement. Even many parents who had been reluctant to send their daughters back to school expressed gratitude for they realized the skills their girls would learn could help their families economically.   A generator with sufficient fuel had to be brought in to power the equipment (there is no electricity in these schools), and a search for a qualified female instructor took some time. Finally, everything was ready and HTAC's education team proudly announced the very first computer education for this Paghman school was open for enrollment.  To see the looks on the faces of these deserving girls made all our work worthwhile.

  

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