Gawhar Shad University was founded in 2003 by CHI's project partner the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in response to the lack of post-secondary education opportunities for Afghan women. Today, the University has three curriculum tracks; the College of Nursing/Health Education, the College of Math and Computer Science, and the College of Education.
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.
The College of Math and Computer Science course subjects include Computer, Math, Dari, Psychology, English, and Islamiat. Currently 113 students are studying in this 4-year program. Students are broadening their knowledge base and learning leadership skills that will prepare them for management positions in public and private sector organizations. Skilled managers and leaders who are able to develop innovative solutions to the many problems of Afghanistan are greatly needed during this period of reconstruction.
In the College of Education, teachers study to be teacher trainers. They learn student-centered, interactive methods of teaching and how to train other teachers to use these methods. These interactive teaching methods are revolutionizing education in Afghanistan and starkly contrast with traditional Afghan teaching methods which rely on recitation and rote memorization. Interactive methods like demonstration, practical application, discussion, and group work challenge students and teach them to think critically and to problem solve. Those studying to be Master Teacher Trainers are required to complete practical and theoretical work. They are taught by AIL’s Master Teacher Trainers and receive individual training and guidance. Last year, two teachers completed this course of study and became Master Teacher Trainers. Thirteen teacher trainers are currently enrolled in this program. In total, AIL teacher trainers and Master Teacher Trainers have trained over 8,000 Afghan teachers in interactive methods, increasing the quality of education for hundreds of thousands of students.
During the winter of 2004, another Afghan woman who had also founded a university asked to merge her university with Gawhar Shad in order to improve the quality and sustainability of her post-secondary program. AIL agreed to this merger and welcomed the new students. CHI and AIL are also looking forward to expanding these post-secondary course offerings to students in Afghanistan as soon as possible.