Afghanistan : Education
BRAC began its education programme in Afghanistan in 2002 with 24 schools catering to 778 girls between 11 and 15 years of age who had never attended school before.
In 2009 we carried on our work to reduce childhood illiteracy in Afghanistan by working with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to provide education in rural areas to students who have dropped out of or never entered the state-run formal education system. Young girls, who suffer a 70% illiteracy rate in Afghanistan, are the primary target of BRAC’s education programme. BRAC graduates rejoin the public school system in grade 4 or 5.
Currently 68% of students - and 82% of female students - in Afghanistan drop out of school before completion grade 6. By building and operating community-based schools in sparsely populated rural areas where no government schools are available, we hope to further reduce drop-out rates. BRAC and the
MoE have found that students who start their education at 5/6 years of age are less likely to dropout during primary school. The bond that forms between female students during pre-school increases the likelihood of them continuing their education in the face of cultural, economic and geographic limitations
We also focused on training the trainers. BRAC builds the capacity of the public school system by training the best teachers from public schools around the country in the latest chemistry, math, biology, and English curricula. Upon graduating from the two-week BRAC training course, these Master Trainers return home to train other teachers in their school, district and province.
BRAC works to improve the organisational effectiveness of Ministry of Education (MoE) employees by teaching them current education management techniques in a five-month intensive training course in Bangladesh. Local non-government organisations (NGOs) are trained and supervised by BRAC to help them work for the MoE with the objective of eventually turning over all responsibility to well-trained local education experts.
Decades of continued conflict virtually destroyed the Afghan education system. By the middle of the 1990s, only about 650 schools were functioning. When the
Taliban came to power, girls’ education was prohibited. The current Afghanistan education model is based on Primary School from grades 1-6 (ages 7-12), followed by Secondary School from grades 7-9 and High School from grades 10-12. Education is compulsory up to age nine and free to all students through grade 12. Schools and teacher salaries are paid for by the central government.
When we first began the education programme, we targeted children of families returning to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries for accelerated learning in order to allow them to catch up and join the formal school system at grade 3. Using existing school buildings and local teachers during the 3 month school holiday, BRAC quickly brought returning school children up to age-appropriate grade levels.
BRAC’s cost-effective structure and the willingness of its employees to travel to and live in remote areas of the country sets us apart from the other NGOs involved in education in Afghanistan.
Community Based Schools
Distance is the primary reason for poor school attendance rates in Afghanistan. Most children living in the rural areas are required to walk relatively long distances to reach the nearest government school and this is a security concern for their parents, especially for young girls.
BRAC’s solution to the problem is the Community Based School concept. First, working in coordination with the Department of Education, BRAC identifies villages that do not have a school within a reasonable distance. A BRAC Programme Organiser (PO) travels to the village to contact village elders and other leaders to inform them of the opportunities and benefits of having a village school. With their permission, the PO conducts a house-by-house survey to identify all unenrolled children. S/he discusses the benefits of education with parents and encourages them to allow their children to enrol with BRAC. The PO also identifies potential teachers. The PO presents the survey results and requests permission to begin the school. A teacher is selected by the community and trained by BRAC.
There are two models for Community Based Schools:
The “Feeder School” model - Community Based Feeder Schools (CBFSs) - trains out-of-school children (both boys and girls) between the ages of 7 and 9 for two years to prepare them for entry into formal schools at grade level 4.
The Community Based Accelerated Learning Schools (CBALSs) are for girls between 10 and 15 years of age who have dropped out of or never attended school. These girls are trained for two years following the government curriculum for grades 1 through 3. Class size is limited to a maximum of 35 and a single teacher stays with the class for the two years until graduation. In some cases, BRAC builds a simple school building in the village on donated land while in other cases, classroom space is rented. Classes are held for four hours a day. Students sit on mats on the floor around the perimeter of the room. There is no furniture in the classroom. Teachers are given 15 days basic training prior to opening the school and receive a small honourarium per month. All reading material and school supplies are provided free to teachers and students.
Adolescent Reading Centres
Adolescent Reading Centres (ARCs) are designed to provide adolescent girls with a safe space to socialise and remain engaged in the learning process even after they have stopped attending school. BRAC rents space for the ARCs and the girls meet for two and a half hours in the afternoon, twice a week.