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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.

Jul 9, 2004

Learning Center Update

CHI's project partner in Afghanistan, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), greatly expanded its Women's Learning Center services to hard-to-reach, under-served rural women and children in Mir Bacha Kot over the last 18 months. CHI and AIL are offering classes like literacy and sewing to women and girls at 3 locations, a home school for girls, a home school for boys, and advanced classes for boys in subjects like Math and Science. In May 2004 alone, over 700 women and children, who do not have access to government schools, were studying in these classes.

One of the students of CHI and AIL's advanced classes in Mir Bacha Kot told about his experiences. He said:

"During the Taliban's regime we migrated to Iran to be safe and I worked to acquire bread for my family. There I used to sell biscuits and chocolates on streets. From morning to night, I was out. Hence, I couldn't study and I remained back from education. After Taliban's regime collapsed and we came back to Afghanistan, I wished to join school but my age didn't allow me which made me so hopeless. One day my father told me, 'I have heard that AIL has opened an Advanced course in our village. You can attend it.' I got very happy and went there to be admitted. There I was registered gladly. Now I can take a promoted test and study in school. My family and I are thankful to AIL for it was AIL who stimulated me and made feel prosperous like other youths who study in high classes."

In order to improve the quality of education in Mir Bacha Kot, CHI and AIL offered teacher training seminars and upgraded the skills of teachers. The seminars were so well-received that a neighboring rural community called Kalikhan asked for training for their teachers too. The teacher training seminars in Mir Bacha Kot and Kalikhan were noteworthy because AIL’s female teacher trainers provided training to the region's male teachers, an unprecedented and rewarding educational experience for these communities and a true model for gender equality in Afghanistan. To date, CHI and AIL have trained 108 teachers in Mir Bacha Kot and Kalikhan through this seminar.

CHI and AIL have also built a permanent health clinic in Mir Bacha Kot. This clinic is the first of its kind in these villages. The clinic treats common diseases, provides minor surgery, and especially focuses on mother/child health. Clinic staff distributes soap, shampoo, and home birthing kits. They provide vaccinations, and even deliver babies. In May of 2004 alone, clinic staff treated 2,459 patients and provided health education on topics like hygiene and disease prevention to 4,918.

The Mir Bacha Kot clinic includes a nutrition center, where clinic staff treats children who have problems from poor nutrition. Staff is also educating mothers about how they can make sure that their children get proper nutrition. Mothers learn lessons like how to take care of a child for good health and growth, how to use food, the benefits of mother’s milk, and how to measure height, weight, and arms.

All of this work in Mir Bacha Kot to bring education and health to the women and children in this community has led to some other important developments. After observing AIL’s method of working, a group of community members have begun their own community organization. They are planning to start a library and sports teams for Mir Bacha Kot children. Additionally, the local government school is now offering classes to girls in the afternoons. This is a tremendous step for Mir Bacha Kot, which has never had a girls school before.

Jul 9, 2004

Health Professional Training Update

The Nursing/Health Education program provides students with a broad knowledge-base and skill set in nursing, health education, vaccination, midwifery, and disease prevention. This six-month intensive course requires students to complete practical as well as classroom work and provides instruction on over 100 medical topics. Graduates are in high demand by employers because there are so few skilled Afghan female health professionals and a strong cultural preference that Afghan women receive health services from other Afghan women. Some Nurse/Health Educators have enrolled in Kabul University's Medical School and have been exempted from numerous classes because of the quality of training that they received at AIL. To date, 52 women have graduated from this course and are providing urgently needed health care services to thousands of Afghan women who would not otherwise have access to care. Nineteen more women are currently enrolled.

In accordance with traditional customs, families ask traditional birth attendants to help during the delivery. Most of the women who act as traditional birth attendants are illiterate and have never had any formal training. AIL's 4-week traditional birth attendant training course was developed and piloted by AIL doctors and health educators during 2003 in response to the requests of women for this training. Topics covered in the training include danger signs during pregnancy, preparing for a clean delivery, method of delivering a baby, normal deliveries, and child care. Birthing kits are given to the participants. The demand for AIL’s traditional birth attendant training workshop is high and many women have asked to participate in the course. During the evaluation component of previous traditional birth attendant training workshops, participants have expressed great thanks to AIL for this workshop. On behalf of all the participants of one traditional birth attendant workshop, one said:

"We are very much grateful to these Health Educators who came all the way to this camp to give us this important training. In order to make the lessons easy and more understandable, they translated the lesson plans in our own language, which really proved to be much helpful. We learned the right method of delivering a child. Many women in our areas died because of the problems arising during delivery. We were not able to help them since we never knew the right method of delivery. But now we know our mistakes. Through conducting this workshop, you have saved the lives of many women who might have died during the pregnancy or might have lost the life of their child."

To date, 30 women have participated in the 4-week training and other traditional birth attendants have received shorter training sessions on specific topics. The traditional birth attendants are now able to recognize danger signs earlier in a pregnancy and refer the mother to AIL’s health clinics for additional care. Some women have even come to AIL’s clinics to deliver their babies. CHI and AIL hope to offer more trainings to upgrade the skills of even more traditional birth attendants and improve the health and safety of more mothers and babies during birth.

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