I am Bazgha Iftikhar, and I am very excited to be part of your blog, early this year I was given the opportunity to speak via Skype with a group of teachers from Alkira Secondary College. I am working with International Rescue committee (IRC) before I go in more detail and tell you about my work here, I would like to tell you guys little bit about organization I am working with. IRC is an International Non-Government Organization (it is non-profit organization) it is one of the oldest and largest organization dedicated to assisting people affected by conflict and disaster. IRC was founded by Albert Einstein in 1933. We work in 40 countries around the world and in 22 cities in US, you can find more about IRC and work it’s doing by visiting website http://www.rescue.org/
Within IRC, I am associated with Child and Youth Protection Development Unit; we work in Education, Youth and Livelihoods as well as Child Protection. War, conflict and natural disasters affect children terribly and IRC works with affected communities to protect children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence and nurtures and develops their potential through innovative education, livelihoods and skill training programs. IRC helps communities through:
- The IRC provides counseling and services to young people who have experienced disease, abuse, exploitation or loss and separation from their families
- IRC “child-friendly spaces” provide the youngest victims of war and natural disaster with a safe place to play, participate in structured activities and to heal from trauma and loss while rebuilding a sense of normalcy.
- The IRC trains educators, constructs classroom, and supports schools that are attended by hundreds of thousands of children.
- We provide skills training to young people who have had their education or careers interrupted by war or natural disaster. More than half of those who receive such training are girls.
I am working with a project which focuses on basic education in Afghanistan as a Senior Technical Advisor for Education. Before I go in the details of the project I would like to tell you little bit more about education in Afghanistan, 45 % of the population in the country is under 15 years old; the country has one of the highest out-of-the schools populations in the world. Around 5 million school-aged children (40-50% of the age relevant population, of which 70% are girls) permanently not attending school. And 1.2 million students, who although are enrolled in schools, are permanently absent from school. Many areas of Afghanistan are marked by steep mountainous terrain in which numerous small villages are tucked away into remote valleys. Many of these rural communities are too far away from Ministry of Education schools for children to attend any school on a regular basis, particularly poorer students and girls. Apart from this addition obstacles to education are local customs and attitudes towards education and concerns about security. . Parents are often unwilling to send their children, particularly girls, to schools some distance from their homes due to the arduous nature of the journeys, security, risk to reputation, time not available to assist with household chores, as well as distrust towards unknown institutions and people. As a result of lack of access to educational facilities in rural communities/villages illiteracy is widespread.
There are lesser girls students in schools, particularly in rural areas, although in last decade literacy rates have increased and many girls are attending the schools but this situation is only in big cities. In villages at times children have to walk for 2-3 hours to get to schools and sometimes more; which in turn results in lesser and lesser students attending schools. Parents are willing to send their boys to MoE schools but girls are not allowed due to following reasons:
– Distance to Classes
– Safety and Security
– Community and Social Norms
– Lack of School Facilities
– Lack of Teachers, particularly female teachers
The project I am associated with is a community based education project and we work in remote rural districts where MoE schools are far away from local communities, we have opened classrooms where we are offering primary education, accelerated learning classes (to children who have missed on schooling years to reasons quoted above) and literacy classes for adults. One of the main focuses of the project is to promote girls enrolment, and to train female teachers; because they are the most affected by the crisis in the country. The project is being implemented in 12 provinces namely:
People of the communities, living in the provinces mentioned above have responded to our efforts positively, in Paktiya Province we have 96 % rate of girls enrolment, which is encouraging.
I encourage you guys to find these places on map of Afghanistan and learn more about them. They are historically rich areas, for example Buddhas of Bamiyan. I would be happy to answer your questions. I will travel to couple of these provinces after Eid (a religious festival here) and would be happy to share pictures of the classes and experience. Talk to you guys soon on Skype.