1145 Give Afghan Refugees the Gift of Education
In 2008, AIL educated 4,727 Afghan refugees in its schools and Women's Learning Centers (WLC) in Northern Pakistan. 72% of those educated were women and girls.
During 2008, one of AIL's WLC's reached a milestone-- its first class of girls studying in the 9th grade. This is a truly remarkable story as this group of initially illiterate girls from a very traditional, rural, conservative area in Afghanistan began studying with AIL 7 years ago and have continued their studies until now.. Here is one of the girl's stories:
"I am from a poor and narrow-minded family that does not allow their daughters to go outside the home to study. My father has always told me that he did not have enough money to pay the fees to send me to school; he barely had enough money to feed me and pay our rent. Besides, he said, if he allowed me to go to school my relatives and neighbors would say that he was not zealous enough since no one allows their daughters to go to school. One day my neighbor told me that there was a center that teaches women and girls and that you can learn a great deal from this school without paying any fees. At first I was really excited until I realized that I was 13 and might have sit in a lower class with younger students. When I was finally allowed to go to the center, I saw that many older women and girls were attending the school. Now I am happy because I can read, and write. I pray 5 times a day to those who open centers like this for women and older girls."
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.”
There are still over two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. From January to June 2008 the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) supported classes for 2,776 students monthly through Afghan refugee schools and AIL’s Women’s Learning Centers (WLC).
One of students from Majoba Herawi center says, “When my father passed away I was in class two and my mom didn’t let me continue my studies, which made me very disappointed. I was home for about 5 years. Our economical conditions were also not good, my mom used to sew some clothes to provide us with food and shelter.
Later on I heard from one of our neighbors that there was a literacy class at the Majoba Herawi center which teaches women and girls, so I discussed going to the center with my mom and made her let me come and join here. Now I am so happy here and I have the first position in the class. My future plan is to become a teacher and if god is willing I will provide free education to others and help and support my other sisters.”
Zareen a student in the literacy class said: “When I got engaged I was in 3rd class and when I got married I was just 16 years old after that my husband continued his education but his parents didn’t give me permission to continue my classes. I argued many times with my husband to get permission from your parents for me. After long time, they gave me permission to go and I went to Majoba Herawi center. Now I am in class 8th and I am very happy to be able to solve my and my family problems. Now my husband is in London and I can write letters to him. My mother in law says to me thanks to God you have become educated and can solve our family problems. Now all my husband’s family members take advice from me as an educated woman to help solve their problems.”
The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) continues to play an important role in educating Afghan refugee children and women who are not yet able to return to their homeland. AIL supports three refugee schools for 1065 children and three Women’s Learning Centers where 997 women take literacy, skills training and enrichment classes. AIL’s Gawhar Shad University has 147 students in its Computer College. AIL also continues to train teachers and administrators. In 2007, AIL Pakistan has trained 79 teachers and 61 administrators.
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