The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in Herat now has 9 Women’s Learning Centers for 3873 students. Seven of the centers are located in rural areas and the two centers in Herat City serve displaced and poor women and children. 80% of the students are female. All classes are Fast Track classes (see prior reports). Subjects that can be studied include literacy, math, computer, English, tailoring, carpet weaving, embroidery, knitting, art, calligraphy, Arabic and beautician training. All classes include lessons in peace education, health , human rights and leadership. All of the teachers have received training in the last year and students report that they learn faster in AIL classes because of the quality of the teachers than they do in schools or other places.
Many of the students attending the AIL centers lead difficult lives and studying at the centers has helped them to improve their situation. The story of one of those students, Mariam, who was a student at one of AIL’s rural centers follows:
My name is Suriya and I am one of the unlucky people that have faced many problems in my life. I had born in Iran when my parents left their country because there was war in Afghanistan. Now I am 19 years old. My father worked there in Iran and our economic situation was okay so due to this situation I wanted to go to school. Every day I heard the school bell and it encouraged me more and more. I asked my mother to ask my father to do some thing so that I could go to school. During the night while my father came from the work my mother asked him about my wish. My father has seen to my face deeply and told me in a very sad way, "What you don't know is that if Afghan children want to go to school, they have to pay and I have no money to pay for your school.” This answer of my father made me very disappointed. Since that moment I tried to forget going to school. All the day I was spending my time watching TV. I was homesick and I counted the days when I could go back to my own country. After the Taliban regime, we returned to our country. But again I was upset because I was not in the age to go to school and I had no document to get admission to regular school. We did not have any saved money to run the family and day by day our economic situation was getting worse. Due to the bad economic situation, the good atmosphere of our family was changed to violence. This situation caused my father to leave us alone and he went to another province. So I decided to be literate to be able to find a job to support my family. One year after this event, my father sent us a letter that he got another wife and he would not return to Herat and you have to be self sufficient. I have tried to go to a private literacy course. Wherever I went, they asked me for fee and money but I had not anything to pay for it. Again I was disappointed from the life. One day one of my friends told me about the AIL center. I went there and got admission to the literacy class and I reached my goal. I continued up to grade six there in a very difficult situation. My mother went to the city and washed the people’s clothes to get money for us. I also found a job in an organization as a literacy teacher. What I learned from AIL teachers, I practice them and my students love my way of teaching. Now I am able to support my family from my salary. I can say that AIL rescued my life and made my future bright. I am very happy from my life now I appreciate AIL because this happiness is given by AIL to me.
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