For many Afghan girls, accessing a quality education is already wrought with challenges — a situation complicated further due to the pandemic. With the closure of schools, we found out how one community are keeping their girls learning against the odds.
Abbas Dara* is a relatively large village for the Andarab district in Baghlan province. Around 300 families live there and most rely on agriculture for income. With the nearest school a long way away, the majority of people are illiterate. Due to concerns for their safety when travelling to school, as well as economic and cultural constraints, girls, in particular, struggle to gain an education.
To provide opportunities for girls, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), with funding from UKAID, established an Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) class in 2019 for the thirty out-of-school adolescent girls in Abbas Dara. These classes are designed to fast-track learning so that girls who have been unable to study in the past can undertake future education or apply for skills training programmes.
After successfully completing the first grade, the students were on course to start the second grade. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education announced in March that all schools must close.
In response to the pandemic, AKF staff, community leaders, and teachers had begun to put in place a series of measures and interventions to keep the community safe and raise awareness of the health risks and guidelines for avoiding infection. Health and hygiene materials including masks, gloves and soap were distributed to students, teachers and school committees. The latter two were also provided with guidelines on how to distribute these materials to students.
“One of the ALP teachers…is in the process of developing home-study lesson plans for the students including regular monitoring and support over the phone, and in-person for emergency situations.”
One of the ALP teachers at the forefront of sharing this information, Miss Gulnoor Din, has also been supporting students to continue their education at home and engage with their parents, elders, and older siblings to support them with their daily lessons. Miss Din is in the process of developing home-study lesson plans for the students including regular monitoring and support over the phone, and in-person for emergency situations. Remote support for both the teachers and the students is also being provided through AKF field staff as well.
Adapting to these new and unfamiliar circumstances, whilst also trying to stay calm in the face of an invisible threat, has been very difficult for many in this community. But thanks to the inspirational work from teachers like Miss Din, AKF’s efforts to support girls to keep learning during this crisis has been made possible. Not only have these lessons at home provided a sense of continuity for the girls, they have also ensured that students, families and teachers alike know that their wellbeing will not be neglected during these trying times.
*All names of people and places have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
Steps Towards Afghan Girls’ Education Success (STAGES) is AKF’s largest girls’ education programme globally. AKF is proud to work with a consortium of partners to implement this programme which includes CARE, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Aga Khan Education Services, and the Afghan Education Production Organisation (AEPO). It is supported by the Afghan Ministry of Education and funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.