Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism

by Central Asia Institute Vetted since 2010 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit

For the last two weeks, I have watched in disbelief and dismay as CAI’s Afghan friends and family faced unspeakable horrors, enduring violent attack after violent attack.
 
Just this Monday, 31 people were killed in a series of attacks in Afghanistan. On April 22, a suicide blast in Kabul killed 57 people -- including at least five children -- and wounded over 100 more at a voter registration center. That attack was preceded by a car bombing in southern Afghanistan in which at least 13 people were killed and 35 others injured. In early April, Taliban militants struck a girls’ high school in Logar Province and set it on fire. A separate assault was conducted on a school in Nangarhar Province the following Saturday.
 
According to the U.N. civilian deaths from violent attacks have doubled in the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017. Attacks involving civilians have become almost commonplace. It’s easy for those of us not living in fear to turn a blind eye. But CAI will not look away. We will not turn our backs on our brave friends and colleagues in Afghanistan. 
 
As I write this 44% of Afghanistan is either controlled or contested by the Taliban or the Islamic State. Experts are warning today that violence will increase in the coming weeks with the announcement of the spring fighting season, the approaching 2018 elections and continuing opposition to proposed peace talks.
 
With so much disheartening news behind us and more predicted ahead, CAI is reaffirming right now that we will stand with the men, women, and children of Afghanistan. We will not waiver in our support.
 
It is our firm belief that education is the surest path to peace. Not only that, but education is a fundamental inalienable human right of all people. Despite an increasingly hostile environment in many of the regions in which we work, CAI will continue to provide access to quality education; especially for girls.
 
To the teachers, students, and parents in Afghanistan, we salute your bravery. Nevertheless, it is not enough to keep you in our thoughts and prayers, or salute your bravery. We at CAI are committed to moving forward with you. This includes our personal support and the support of our entire global network. We are behind you 100%. We have great confidence that with education and your undefeatable spirit, we will have peace in Afghanistan.
 
 
Sincerely,

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Jim Thaden, Executive Director
Central Asia Institute

Children in Diamer
Children in Diamer

In 2017, after careful talk and negotiation, CAI was presented with the opportunity to create more access to education in Diamer District, an incredibly conservative area in Pakistan. In this region 72 percent of children age three to 16 are out of school, with girls representing the majority of that number. For decades outside groups have attempted to bring education to this region, but the concerned mullahs (religious leaders), were cautious of these foreign groups, many of which tried to start programs without talking with them or getting their approval.

Saidullah Baig, director of Central Asia Institute Gilgit (CAIG), one of CAI’s partners in Pakistan, held out hope that religious and community leaders would see the value of education. In the spring of 2017 he met with a group of mullahs and muftis (Muslim legal experts who are empowered to give rulings on religious matters) to talk about creating more access to education for children in Diamer (You can read about his conversation with Mufti Imtiaz Dareli on page 34 of the latest Journey of Hope magazine). These leaders were ready to improve education in their region, and Saidullah listened to their needs and concerns. In the end, Saidullah created a plan to help the mullahs bring education to their communities while honoring their religious traditions. An incredible opportunity, but something we couldn’t accomplish alone.

Over the spring and summer, CAI supporters came together to raise money to fix up a  high school in Diamer that had been left in disrepair and to open new homeschools for the younger children to learn in a safe and protected environment. Today we got word of the incredible impact on the desire for girls’ education in this region.

Homeschools in Darel Valley Provide Access to Education

CAIG set up three pilot homeschools for girls in Darel Valley, a region with 70,000 people in Diamer District, and the community is already asking for more. When the schools first opened in March 2017, 129 girls were enrolled in the classes. Now the schools are packed with 227 girls. Once the schools became available, the villagers saw how beneficial it was for their daughters. They began to trust that the homeschools were safe, and the demand began to grow.

“In Darel Valley the children are much excited about the schools. We have provided them textbooks and uniforms,” says Saidullah. “[The kids] say ‘I want to become a doctor or a nurse or a pilot.’ The kids and the people of this area are energetic.”

He continues, “Even the teachers to whom we have hired during the training we learned they are much interested. They are working hard and they have a good chance to teach their own kids. They have started a good job that is creating change in the area.”

There is Still Much Work to Be Done

Though enrollment in the homeschools has virtually doubled, the number is still dramatically low in a population of 70,000. It’s clear this community wants more access to education.

“That environment is still conservative,” says Karimuddin, manager of administration and finance at CAIG. “You have to go through a slow pace and start in small villages within some tribe specific areas. In response to initial starting of three homeschools we had 129 girls in March 2017, after people were getting knowledge of the school and they has started to bring their children in the school. Now it scaled to 227.”

Though there are many more girls to educate in Diamer, both Saidullah and Karimuddin see this first pilot program as a success. Other villages close to Darel Valley have been asking for help setting up home schools and they have more students applying to enroll than they have available spaces.

“Acceptance of this intervention means a positive change in behavior of the community towards female education,” says Saidullah.

The success of these pilot homeschools in Darel Valley is soon to spread into other areas of Diamer District, and the girls who graduate the home schools now have a chance to attend the newly finished high school. This is a small victory for girls’ education. Once more, we were humbled by the determination of girls to go to school and the generous CAI supporters who make it their mission to ensure these girls have the support and supplies they need to realize their dreams.

Diamer High School
Diamer High School

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Hareem
Hareem

Last spring CAI supporters met Hareem, a young woman with a dream of being a pharmacist and a strong determination to achieve that dream despite poverty, family tragedy, and difficulty accessing education. Hareem was a featured scholarship student during the 2016 summer campaign.

She grew up in the tiny village of Deranee in Northern Pakistan, a place she describes as a “backwards area” with no industry except agriculture. She sought extra classes to supplement her basic schooling, eventually earning a spot and scholarship at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School in Sher Qila.

Once more she saw her dreams of school dashed when a flood destroyed her family’s home in 2003. She had to move into a shelter, and there was no money to pay for school. That’s when she heard about CAI scholarships and applied for help. One year ago she was studying Honors Chemistry at Karakoram International University in Gilgit with her sites set on a career as a pharmacist.

We followed up with Hareem to see how studies are going a year later, and her response echoes the sounds of hope and hardship—two emotions that often come hand in hand in this region. Read Hareen's full update here. 

Thank you for helping determined women like Hareem rise up each day, determined to get an education. 

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This letter comes from a CAI scholarship student in Afghanistan. The letter, which has been translated from Dari, shares Yalda’s experiences with war, poverty, and hopelessness and the powerful relief scholarships can provide.  

Each year CAI provided scholarships to deserving students from kindergarten to PhDs. These students are some of the brightest in their classes but often face horrific poverty and life circumstances many of us could never imagine. Yalda’s honest letter explains the impact a scholarship can have in the lives of our students. This year CAI will support more than 700 students with scholarships, but there are thousands more who need our help.

A Letter From Yalda, a CAI Scholarship Student

I hope this letter finds you well as my only coveted aspiration is your health and wellbeing.

I study Dari language and literature at the Teacher Training School of Seyed Jamaleddin Afghan. If I tell you the story of my life, you will see what a hard life I have had so far. I was six years old when my father was killed and at the same time my brother lost a limb in a bombing airstrike. From this very moment, my life became grim and was left with a mountain of grief.

When I lost my father and my brother became handicapped, I lost my hope for life and didn’t want to live. No one was there to support us and we were swamped in poverty. We had a hard life and my mother washed clothes at other people’s home to make a living for the family. My life went on in the same manner until I went to the elementary school and continued all the way through 7th grade. We had a kind neighbor, who always advised me to study hard so I can support my family when I grow up.

We moved from our home in that neighborhood when I was at the 7th grade and I could not continue my education because of the poverty. For two years my mother baked bread and I sold them until I could go back to school again and continue my education. I still had financial difficulties and could not buy my school supplies, so some of my classmates would help me with my expenses. While I was happy receiving their support, I was embarrassed and felt [helpless]. I had become sensitive and would take everything personal.

After 12 years of hard work, I finally received my high school diploma, took the university entrance exam (Kankor) and was accepted at the Seyed Jamaledding Teacher Training School. Yet again, I had bumped into a new hurdle: my tuition and expenses of my schooling. Nobody was there to support me, as my brother, a street vendor, could hardly make any money. When the teacher instructed all the students to obtain the Chapters [class books], I was worried because I couldn’t afford to buy the Chapters. Long story short, I can’t tell you enough about the expenses of a student which I couldn’t afford any of them.

As a student, I received only 50 AFN [$0.73 USD] every week which would pay for my transportation; the Melli Bus charges 5 AFN from my home to the school. If I were lucky to catch the bus, I would take the bus; otherwise, I had to walk one hour from my home to school and another hour to come back home. All things considered, I have passed numerous destitute moments in my life to get where I am right now.

Your organization’s support solves a huge portion of my difficulties in life and I would like to ask you please not to cut your financial aids to me. I won’t be able to finish my education if I don’t get your support. I would like to thank you one more time and ask for your continuous assistance until I reach my long life dream of finishing my education, getting a job and helping my family who has never experienced a moment of happiness. My dream about my future is that I can help other people like me who have had a miserable life and have not been able to go to school on their own, like myself, so they can also improve their families’ life.

In the end, I would like to thank you for continuing your assistance so I can finish my education and fulfill my dreams. In fact, with your help to somebody like me, you bring brightness not only to our lives, but also to our families and take away the bitterness with your sweet deeds. God bless you in both worlds and hope you will get the rewards from God in life. This is the grim story of a girl who lost her father at the age of six and has lived a life of misery.

Respectfully yours,

Yalda

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Khodi Dust Girls
Khodi Dust Girls' Higher Secondary School

“The only way to prevent Afghanistan from going backward is education.”

These words hung heavily in the hot air of a teacher’s lounge in a small village in Nangarhar province last year during a conversation about the future of Afghanistan with CAI Communications Director Hannah White.

They were spoken by Muhammad, an Islamic Studies teacher for grades 9 – 12 at Khodi Dust Girls’ Higher Secondary School. Muhammad is passionate about education, and he truly believes it is the only thing that can save his country.

Muhammad was born in this village, but his family moved just over the border to Pakistan where he lived for 18 years when the war in Afghanistan got too dangerous. There he studied Islam before returning back home to raise his children. Now, the Pakistani government is discouraging non-citizens from attending their schools and private schools are too expensive. He brought his family home to receive educations and to be a teacher himself.

“I work for the children, not for the salary,” he says.

 

A School At the End of the Road

This high school is located less than an hour’s drive from Jalalabad, one of Afghanistan’s larger cities, but it might as well be a world away. Few NGO’s travel off the main route, up a dusty road to help the villagers. The school was built by CAI’s partner organization Star of Knowledge (SKO) in 2012,. Educating their children was so important that a local man with daughters of his own donated almost all of his land to the school. He kept a small strip right outside the where he built a little shop to sell sweets and snacks and watches over the children who attend the school. Though it is new, it has no electricity because the village has no electricity. They are hoping for an English teacher and a librarian for their library in the future.

The children attend school in split shifts with boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon. There is only one female teacher. Muhammad says there are more women who are interested, but they live too far away and aren’t allowed to travel for work.

The villagers are poor, and this can lead to girls dropping out of school when they are old enough to work. The school has a parent’s committee, almost like a PTO, that tries to intervene when this happens. If the parents are too poor to keep their child in school, the committee will find a wealthy person to sponsor the education.

“If [the children] are not educated, there will be no economy,” says Muhammad. “If there is no economy then there is no security.”

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Organization Information

Central Asia Institute

Location: Bozeman, MT - USA
Website: https:/​/​www.centralasiainstitute.org
Project Leader:
Jennifer Pearson
Bozeman, MT United States

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