Women's Learning Center in Herat, Afghanistan

Jul 9, 2004

Afghan Institute of Learning Update

CHI's project partner in Afghanistan, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), has been able to greatly expand its Women's Learning Center services to hard-to-reach, under-served rural women and children in Herat province over the last 18 months by opening two satellite Women's Learning Centers in Sar Asia and Darb-e-Iraq. By May 2004, CHI and AIL were serving 672 women and children in these three centers. Students study in literacy, English, tailoring, knitting, calligraphy, math, Arabic, carpet weaving, computer, and pre-school classes. One student of AIL's WLC in Herat told this story about how CHI and AIL have helped her. She said

"I am Zarghona. I live in Herat Province. I am 20 years old. My parents forced me to get married. From the beginning, I was interested in becoming an educated person to serve the society but alas, there wasn't any opportunity of getting education. The wars and conflicts in Afghanistan, particularly the period of Taliban's regime, badly affected Afghan people, mostly females. Fortunately, AIL paved a way for war weary Afghan people and helped them get educated. One of my friends advised me to join AIL's Literacy Course. Presently I am a student in AIL's Literacy Course. I have completed six months Literacy Course (3 grades) in AIL. Now that I have become literate I feel so happy since I have achieved my goal...I am so thankful to AIL and its colleagues who assisted Afghan females in achievement of their goals."

CHI and AIL also opened a much needed women's and children's health clinic in Herat during 2003, which now serves more than 2,000 patients per month. The clinic has seen over 28,000 patients since it opened and approximately 70% of patients are women. AIL is offering health services through this clinic to the women and children of 45 villages in Herat province. The clinic has a mobile clinic that visits 16 villages monthly and women travel from more remote villages to receive services. Clinic services include medical exams, health education, treatment, dressings, injections, and prescriptions. The clinic especially focuses on maternal/child health because Afghanistan has some of the world's highest maternal and child mortality rates. Maternal/child health services offered through the clinic include assistance with delivery, pre-natal and post-natal checkups, deliveries, and training for traditional birth attendants.

CHI and AIL have opened a new computer lab in Herat city in response to requests from students for computer classes. During October of 2003, CHI and AIL offered a one-week, intensive information-technology training seminar for 21 teachers and professionals in addition to the regular computer classes in programs like Windows, Word, Access, and Excel.

During 2003, CHI and AIL offered a teacher training seminar in Herat after many months of coordinating with the Afghan government. The seminar was so well-received that AIL teacher trainers were immediately invited to return to Herat in December and train more Herat teachers. AIL's teacher training seminar trains teachers to use interactive, student-centered teaching techniques that promote critical thinking skills and logic for problem-solving among students. These methods contrast sharply with traditional teaching methods in Afghanistan which have consisted mainly of rote memorization and dictation. Teachers trained by AIL have reported that their students learn to read much faster and that they learn more in classes once the teachers use the new methods. CHI and AIL also provided training to kindergarten teachers in Herat and have more than doubled enrollment at the AIL Herat Pre-school.


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