“I learned how to read and write,” says Rahila. We enrolled over 9,500 children in Community-Based Education classes in AfghanistanPublished: Mar 27, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
We have driven about an hour to reach Shanan, a neighbourhood of Kabul city, central Afghanistan. Walking through meandering unpaved streets, we see that most houses are mud-brick and lack basic amenities such as electricity, access to drinking water, or sanitation. Children are playing around the dusty neighbourhood because there is no school in Shanan.
Finally, we arrived at a Community-Based Education (CBE) class, where we met Rahila. Rahila is an eight-year-old girl who has lived with her family of seven—including three sisters and two brothers—in a rented house for more than a year. Due to the economic situation in Afghanistan, her family was displaced from Jalalabad to Kabul. Rahila hoped her life would improve after moving to a new location, but this was not initially the case.
Collecting garbage to make living
To support her family, Rahila, her father, and her sisters resorted to collecting plastic and used cans from garbage around the city. The family often collected from early morning until late at night; this was Rahila’s childhood. They burned the plastic for cooking purposes and sold the cans to get money to buy food. “It is about one year since we left Jalalabad because my father did not have a job, land, or a house, so we came here. Together with my sisters, I collected plastic and cans from garbage to support our family,” says Rahila.
Rahila and her sisters have missed school because their father could not buy them school equipment or learning materials. Rahila’s father could hardly feed his family, let alone provide for their education. “We did not go to school because my father could not afford stationery and learning materials for us. I could not read and write. We eat dry flatbread and drink tea without sugar three times a day. My father borrowed money from shops and our relatives had to feed us,” she says.
I learned how to read and write
With the support of the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF), we have established 280 Community-Based Education (CBE) classes in six districts of Kabul Province to support vulnerable and deprived children with access to education. Rahila visits one of our classes and is now a 1st-grade student.
Since then, she has learned reading, writing and drawing skills and feels happy. “People in Need came to our neighbourhood and enrolled me in this class. My parents and I feel happy because I am pursuing my education. I like Pashto and drawing. I learned how to read and write,” says Rahila.
Rahila would like to continue going to school as she thinks education is the only window towards a bright future. However, in Afghanistan, secondary schools have been closed to girls one year ago. “I would like to continue my education and go to school. I want to become an engineer in the future,” says Rahila.
Changing the lives of children and their communities
Basira, a teacher in the Shanan CBE class, told us that children in Shanan could not read or write before the CBE class was established. Most children, particularly girls, did not attend school in the neighbourhood because of the long distances to public schools and lack of learning materials. In addition, poverty prevents girls from attending school.
“After enrolling in community-based classes, children learned to read and write. They also learned drawing and life management skills. Parents and the community are happy to send their children to community-based classes because they are located within the neighbourhood,” says Basira. “This project has made changes in the lives of children and community because it created educational opportunities for the children and assisted those children to access education,” she adds.
More than three decades of sustained conflict have demolished the Afghan education system; consequently, attending school remains a distant dream for many children—particularly those in remote and rural areas. According to UNICEF, 4.2 million Afghan children missed school in 2022, of whom 60 per cent were girls. In addition, poverty, natural disasters, insufficient funding of the education sector and the current bans on girls' education have deprived millions of children of attending school.
During the last year, People in Need, with funding from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF), helped 9,555 children (5,068 girls and 4,487 boys) enrol in CBE classes.