Help Educate 28,000+ Girls in Northern Afghanistan

 
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Architects
Architects' Rendition of GK School

It gives me great pleasure to let you know that the new school Sahar has been building in Mazar-i-Sharif, Gohar Khotan, is now open and providing education to about 3,000 girls of all ages. I attended the opening celebration on June 2 and was delighted by the festive atmosphere, the attendance of high-level leaders from the Ministry of Education, the local government, and local tribal organizations, and the enthusiastic presentations of the principal, teachers and students. 

Gohar Khaton’s architectural innovations are likely to be copied in many other schools in northern Afghanistan.  Designed by an international team of architects, the building features exceptional structural integrity (including the highest level of earthquake protection), adaptation to the local environment, use of inexpensive local materials, utilitarian spaces, and low maintenance--all that in a building that I can tell you is simply stunning to look at. Sahar will certainly be using what we have learned from this effort as we continue to build school structures in northern Afghanistan.

More important than the structure is the girls who will be educated at Gohar Khotan. They aspire to be journalists, doctors, computer scientists, teachers, artists and more. Their spirit is reflected in the words of one student who participated in the art festival that engaged the students in decorating the school.

“I am a young artist and I had the opportunity to come to this magnificent girls' school to be part of something much larger than myself. For twenty days, I participated in an artists’ training about how to take my own artwork and paint it on one of the walls at the new school. I never thought I would have this opportunity. I believe art, and especially art by girls, can help heal the wounds of war.” Tahira, student at Gohar Khotan.

I am also pleased to tell you that we are preparing to open two more of Sahar’s popular computer centers for girls, one at Gohar Khotan and the other at another girls' school in Mazar-i-Sharif, Sultan Razia and led by an energetic Afghan woman with whom we have worked on other projects. And the teacher training center Sahar supports remains very popular with the older girls from many of the rural areas who are striving to become the teachers of the next generation of girls in Afghanistan. There are 256 girls in attendance now, and another 140 waiting to be admitted.

I hope the above conveys at least a little of the high level of excitement for girls’ education I have been witnessing during my visit. Yes there are security concerns, but girls’ education is alive and well in northern Afghanistan. Your donations make that possible. Thank you so much.   

Painting Artwork on the Walls at GK School
Painting Artwork on the Walls at GK School
Choosing paint for the school
Choosing paint for the school

Education may seem like a simple action in a nation ravaged by war for the last several decades, but we have seen tremendous change in the status of girls and women. Providing quality education experiences is about more than just getting more girls into the classroom, it is about empowering them to be free, creative thinkers who can engage in the public discussion of their country’s culture and politics and be respected and heard. We are a long ways off from achieving our goals of gender parity in the Afghanistan education system, but we continue to see tremendous growth in our capability to make this a reality.

More than three quarters of the way through the construction of our 13th school in Mazar-i-Sharif scheduled for opening in April 2015, we held an artist competition for girls. We asked the girls to think about their new school and come up with art that would be installed on the walls of the building. As part of the competition, six art pieces were chosen and 12 received honorable mention. A workshop on how to install their artwork on large panels will be held with a local specialst. Following the workshop, a hands on experience will be provided, guided by the senior artist, to actually transfer their work onto the large walls. 

"I submitted art work because I felt strongly about making the insides of our school beautiful. War has torn our city apart and now we are re building the Gohar Khaton Girls School. I used to be afraid in our old school that bricks would fall on my head. The rain ran along the walls and mildew came forward." Fahima, student at Gohar Khaton School

" I know how to draw but I don't know how to draw my art on a large wall in our building. The master artist will teach me to do this and then maybe I can have some future in this." Rabia

The selected artwork reflects the girls experiences and insights into life in Afghanistan. With engagement in their own education and construction of their new school building, the girls investment in the learning process increases considerably. 

All this work would not be possible without your help. We are so thankful every day for the donor support we continue to receive. We look forward to more innovative progress in the future.

 Thank you.

Girls of Gohar Khaton Girls School - Bussian photo
Girls of Gohar Khaton Girls School - Bussian photo
Thank You Donors= Peter Bussian photo
Thank You Donors= Peter Bussian photo
Girls at School
Girls at School

Ayni Education International is celebrating a new day in Afghanistan by changing its name to Sahar Education. Sahar means “dawn” in Dari, the most common language spoken in the area we serve in Northern Afghanistan. Our leadership team and our Afghan advisors all agree—this is a new day for girls in Afghanistan.

The historic, peaceful transition to a new government under a coalition led by President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah is poised to bring stability to Afghanistan as coalition forces continue to withdraw. Yet many challenges remain. That’s why Sahar will continue to provide education for Afghan girls—building schools, creating computer centers, and supporting teacher training—while always seeking opportunities to meet the challenges presented as great change is undertaken. Please continue to support our work at this critical juncture in Afghanistan’s history.

Leadership Student
Leadership Student

Your donations help us continue to see tremendous growth in our ability to close the gap in those girls who do go to school and those who do not and importantly to help us find innovative ways to keep girls in school after completing K-5th grades. Thank you. 

Education may seem like a simple action in a nation ravaged by war for the last several decades, but we have seen tremendous change in the status of girls and women. Providing quality education experiences is about more than just getting more girls into the classroom, it is about empowering them to be free, creative thinkers who can engage in the public discussion of their country’s culture and politics and be respected and heard. It is about giving them the skills to become leaders. 

Seventy-seven girls graduated high school in one of our rural villages and 59% of those girls went on to our advanced teacher training program. In two years, those girls will be certified to teach. Afghanistan still faces mounting pressures to provide more female teachers. It is estimated that next year alone, the nation needs more than 80,000 teachers. Raising our graduation rates in the 12 schools we serve provides the possibilities of easing this problem. With female teachers available to teacher older girls, more girls have the chance to identify and move towards post graduate goals. 

"It is fine to go to school but I want more. I want to be a leader but I need practice and skills. We don't have courses for this." Fahima

We have responded to this request by developing a leadership pilot program for a rural school. Twenty-seven girls are participating. The girls were asked to write a vision statement and list their goals. The program is focusing on a group of  girls vulnerable to dropping out. This brings out their dreams and visions and provides them with support. Here are few samples of the girls' statements:

Hameda: "I won the first prize in our school short story competition between more than 30 students. So, from that time my world changed and I started to read and write. My vision is to be a famous writer in the future. I want to write about women's issue. I want to write about world of girls. I want to write about how it is being a woman in a war country like Afghanistan and living in a district far from the city. I will write about all these issues. I will go to university and read many, many books and then I will publish my stories."
Yalda: "My vision is to became a midwife. I am currently in 11th grade and will graduate in one year. Being a midwife is important to me because I saw one of my relatives have a baby without the help of a midwife and it was horrible moments for me when I heard her voice. The health of women can be in trouble. From that moment I decided to be a midwife and help such women." 
Anihta: "I am a girl who lives in a district far from the center of the village. I have a wish which is my vision statement.  I really want to be an engineer. Currently I am in 12th grade. I will be part of this group that teaches girls how to say their goals and then strive for them with the support of one another and our teacher. The circle of leadership means that we want the best for each other and have pragmatic pathways."
 
The course is designed to run for six months and will be evaluated by the girls at the conclusion. Donor support is essential to the ongoing opportunities for girls to learn leadership skills and how to both ascertain their goals and then to participate in leadership circles to act upon these aspirations. 
Leadership Participantes
Leadership Participantes

Education may seem like a simple action in a nation ravaged by war for the last several decades, but we have seen tremendous change in the status of girls and women. Providing quality education experiences is about more than just getting more girls into the classroom, it is about empowering them to be free, creative thinkers who can engage in the public discussion of their country’s culture and politics and be respected and heard. We are a long ways off from achieving our goals of gender parity in the Afghanistan education system, but we continue to see tremendous growth in our capability to make this a reality.

We recently hosted a short story competition at one of our schools, where students were encouraged to write a short story about their life. More than 30 were submitted from 10th through 12th graders. The goal of this competition was to allow students to write stories using their unique voice about their own experiences or life around the village. In addition, students were required to read outside books to help with create a short story. Together these goals encouraged reading and general knowledge, as well as promoting creativity and empowerment by allow the children to raise their own voice and write about the situation.

The stories we received shocked and awed us. The titles were as diverse as “The Merchant Daughter” to “Regret is Useless,” Forces Marriages,” and “Unchastity.” The outpouring for this competition highlights the need to creative outlets in education and further opportunities for students to have their opinion heard.

 More than half-way through the construction of our 11th school, Ayni has been researching new ways to improve our service and make our mission more effective. This month has seen a focus on the effects of early marriage on education and how we can reverse this trend. Over 39% of women are married by 18 in Afghanistan. This leads to a lack of education, maternal and infant health problems, and violence. Currently we are trying to pursue strategic partnerships and engages communities in informational programs in order to raise awareness and address this problem.

You can read more about child marriage here:

http://americamagazine.org/issue/364/article/child-marriage-afghanistan-and-pakistan

http://www.wclrf.org.af/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Early-Marrige-with-cover.pdf

All this work would not be possible without your help. We are so thankful every day for the donor support we continue to receive. We look forward to more innovative progress in the future.

 Thank you.

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Project Leader

Ginna Brelsford

Seattle, WA United States

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Map of Help Educate 28,000+ Girls in Northern Afghanistan