Dear Global Giving Donors,
We would like to send a huge thank you to those that donated to AIL’s Fast Tracking Education project during the challenge grant period! We were successful in meeting and exceeding our goal of raising at least $5000 and receiving donations from at least 50 donors; in fact, we raised a total of $6,020 from 55 donors. Thank you for helping us to secure our $2,500 bonus from Global Giving.
Also, we have some great news to share: the Safer World Fund has decided to match dollar for dollar every donation made to our Fast Tracking Education project, which means that the grand total raised during the challenge period is $14,540! With this money, AIL will be able to provide literacy classes to 224 women and girls
Thank you once again for your generous support of our project. We appreciate you taking the time to make a difference in the lives of Afghan women and girls.
The educational opportunities available to older women in Afghanistan are almost non-existent. The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is where Afghan women older than the customary school age turn to gain the skills and education necessary to help improve their lives.
We’d like to share a recent success story from a Women’s Learning Center (WLC) near Herat, Afghanistan with you. The following is what a 50 year old student, with two school age sons shared with our AIL Herat staff during one of their visits to the WLC she attends.
“I am very happy to sit in this class and learn how to read and write.” As she showed her work to the supervisors, she was very happy and laughing. She continued, “My son, a university student encouraged me to come to this center. During the three months since I have began here, I have learned more than my younger son who is in the 6th grade in a regular school. My young son came to me one day and asked for my help with his school work. I began to laugh, and joked with him ‘Shame on you. I have learned more in three months than you have learned in school!’ He replied, ‘Mom! You know there are no good teachers in the regular schools and we just waste our time there. It is not my fault, but a problem with the system.’
The women then smiled and said, “I have promised my son attending the university that I will compete with him. I am sure I can reach a higher class.”
AIL is making a difference in the lives of Afghan women and children by giving them access to education, and ultimately, hope for a better future.
Since the establishment of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) the goal has been to help women improve their situation in life. Following are a few stories from AIL’s Women’s Learning Centers (WLC) that exemplify the changes that AIL can make in Afghan women’s lives.
When AIL student Rizagul was a young girl, her father was put in prison by the Taliban regime where he was tortured and eventually died leaving behind Rizagul as well as her young brother and her unwell, elderly mother.
Four years ago, Rizagul came to one of AIL’s rural WLC’s in Herat province and began taking various classes, including literacy and sewing. After two years at the center, she was able to gain admission to a regular school at grade level 4, a feat which might have taken 4 years in a regular school, if it happened at all. Even after gaining admission to the regular school, Rizagul continued to take extra courses after school at the center. Unfortunately, the center was closed due to the poor security situation in the region and Rizagul could no longer take the extra courses she had come to enjoy.
A short time ago, an AIL teacher saw Rizagul at a wedding ceremony in their village. Rizagul could not control her emotions and tears rolled down her cheeks as she told her teacher, “You and AIL were the best thing for me, and I will never, never forget your encouragement and all of the hard work that you did for me.” She added, “I can now read in Arabic, I know how to sew and I am a student in grade 6. What I am is because of the AIL center.”
She also said that she is sewing dresses to make money for her family and that she has so much business that she has to turn some people away. She is making a good living, and is able to improve her family’s economic situation with her sewing skills.
Rizagul also told the teacher, “With the advice that the center supervisor wrote in my ‘memory notebook’ (try to learn, work hard for a better future and pray for your future) I am sure that I will go toward a better future.”
Following is the story of Jamila, a literacy student in the 7th grade. Jamila attends one of AIL’s centers in northern Pakistan that services many refugees from rural areas in eastern Afghanistan where women are generally not educated. This center grew out of a girl’s school that was established in 1996 – 1997. In 2002, it was clear that the students from the girls’ school needed a place to continue their education and a Women’s Learning Center was established there. One should also take note of the fact that Jamila is currently in the 7th grade, but has not been in school 7 years. Her story is one of hard work and a determination to become educated.
“I am very happy, I can’t believe that I am in the 7th class and all because of AIL. My family and I are very thankful for Prof. Sakena Yacoobi, the Executive Director of AIL for providing this opportunity for us. My father is a wrathful person and he didn’t want me to go to school and learn things. I was very sad, and day by day I grew older and could not go to school. Last year we changed our home. Some of our neighbors near our home told us about a women’s learning center provided by AIL for women and girls. Once again, I requested that my father give me permission to join this center. After many requests, when my father heard that this center was for women, he accepted and I joined this center. Now I am in the 7th class and every night I help my father with his shop finances. I am very happy that I can help solve my family problems, and now my father is also very happy. I always pray for Prof. Sakena Yacoobi and the AIL staff.”
Between January and June of 2008, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has educated 9,143 women at centers 5 provinces of Afghanistan (Balkh, Herat, Kabul, Bamyan, and Parwan) as well as Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Subjects currently being taught to the women include:
• Science (Including Physics and Chemistry)
• Math (Including Trigonometry)
• Sewing and Tailoring
• Computer Literacy
• Weaving (Including traditional carpet weaving)
• Beauty Parlor Management
The AIL classes are fast track, allowing students to learn at their own pace. Many women and girls have missed out on years of the traditional schooling experience and AIL allows them to make up for lost time, and if possible, rejoin classes in a regular school. Also, AIL centers allow married women to continue their education, a practice not always allowed in regular schools.
Afghan women are often told that after a certain age, they will not be able to learn to read or write. Believing this, they begin coming to the centers to learn vocational skills. As they attend the center, they see other women attending the center’s literacy classes and are able to witness the other women learning to read and write. Soon they begin to believe that they too might be able to learn to read and write. The families of the women have come to trust AIL, and allow their daughters and wives to take the AIL literacy classes.
A young girl named Parmila says, “I am really happy with the Women’s Learning Center that I attend. It is a good and safe educational environment for females. Before the establishment of this center here, the society of this area was against the girl's education. But fortunately the center has done a great deal to change their minds. My parents have not allowed me to go to school and it was very hard for me that my rights have not given to me. So when my parent saw that many women and girls go to the Women’s Learning Center without any problem and all the teachers there are female, they allowed me to go to this center. After some time they took another positive step and told me to get admission in the regular school too. Now I am in grade 7th and I understand if the Women’s Learning Center had not been established here, I and many other girls would remain illiterate people in the society. If that were to happen, this society would never change their mind regarding their girls’ education.”
A 45 year-old women who received her certificate of completion of the 2nd literacy class says, “I am so happy that in this age with so many problems at home I could be able to attend the literacy class here. I and my small daughter are in the same class. I really enjoyed the time that we spend gathered here to learn. The teachers are very nice and hard working people. I appreciate their hard work and I appreciate the executive director of this foundation for providing this opportunity for us. If we did not have this foundation here, God knows what would happen to us.”
Fatima, a student at one of AIL’s centers says, “I born in Iran because my family had to migrate there. As I have grown I have always felt that I am from Afghanistan and would really like to see my country. I was admitted to an Iranian school, and was promoted to grade 3, but had to stop going to school. My father’s economic situation was not good, and he could no longer support me. It was very hard for me to have to stop my education. As time was passing and I was getting older, I saw boys and girls going to school with happy faces and it really bothered me. The only thing I could do was just pray to go back to my country and be able to go to school.
Finally, we returned to Afghanistan and I was so happy to breathe the oxygen of my own country. A few months later, I tried to go to school but it was so late and I was told that I was too old to attend the regular schools. Once again I lost hope.
I got the information from my neighbors that there is an educational center for women established by A.I.L and I went there and started learning literacy and sewing. Now I am in grade 5 and I hope I can continue my education and on day go to the university. I am so happy that I am learning to read and write, and also to sew, and I hope that I will be able to support myself with these skills. I have also learned a little English because it is a subject that we must learn. I appreciate that my teachers work hard. Every day she speaks to the students about peace, health, manners and more, for ten minutes before beginning our lessons. I must thank AIL for providing this opportunity to Afghan women.”
In response to a question from a donor about any religious teachings in the Fast Track classes, we wanted to share the following details about the program in Afghanistan:
All of AIL's Fast Track classes include information on health, peace, gender and human rights issues. The subject matter of the Fast Track classes varies depending on what is requested by the students. The most common Fast Track classes are literacy, sewing or other crafts such as carpet weaving, embroidery, etc., Arabic, beauty parlor management. In some centers, there are classes in English, computer, calligraphy, math, science, drawing, art and other subjects--it depends on what the students need. In addition, if students progress beyond the first literacy class, they then begin studying the same books as they would study in the school system. We still call it literacy because our centers are not schools. However, the subjects are equivalent to those in the schools which is why students can either mainstream into the regular schools after attending our classes or receive grade certificates by taking an exam in the schools for particular grade levels. If a student is studying in the fourth grade level or beyond, then there may be religion in some of the history classes --it is like history of the religion--not theology. This would be the same as in social studies classes here in the U.S.
If the question pertains to indoctrination, then the answer is "no" there is no religious or political indoctrination in AIL classes.
Just to make sure that it is clear, AIL calls its classes Fast Track classes because in general the length of time of the classes is shorter than it would be in the regular school system. Also, AIL students can study at their own pace so if a student covers the material quicker in a literacy class, then the student can go on to the next level. Likewise, if a student is slower, they can study for a longer period of time. AIL's emphasis is on the students learning. When they have learned and passed the tests, they get a certificate. It is based on what is learned, not on the amount of time spent sitting in a class. For this reason, AIL's certificates are valued.Because of the lack of education under the Taliban for both girls and boys, after the fall of the Taliban, everybody wanted to catch up and study as fast as they could. That is why AIL instituted the "Fast Track" system. What it has evolved into is really a flexible way of studying which allows students to study at their own pace. Most students do finish faster than they would in a regular school but a few do not. Again the emphasis is on learning.
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Founder & Executive Director