Year by year, the students are increasing and school improvements are also happening. The changes have been good but it is still very difficult for us,” says Bahadari.
The transformation has been dramatic. In 2001, the place was known as ‘the burned school,’ because it was largely destroyed by conflict in the area, she says. But gradually the community re-established the school, and the Ministry of Education’s Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), supported by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), also started providing assistance in 2007.
Afghanistan’s education system was largely destroyed as the result of decades of war, and girls were not allowed to attend school under the Taliban. Today, about 50 percent of the country’s schools do not have proper buildings, and more than half of the teachers have not graduated from Grade 12.
EQUIP aims to increase access to education, particularly for girls, through school grants and teacher training. ARTF has provided a total of $408 million to EQUIP. It’s now estimated girls’ enrollment has increased to 2.7 million from less than 200,000 in 2002, and boys’ attendance has grown to about 4.4 million from less than one million.
With assistance from EQUIP at Nahid Shahid School, the school shura was created and its 15 members promptly set about recruiting students. When Bahadari started at the school five years ago, there were about 2,000 children in attendance, she says. Now the total has tripled.
Special effort to recruit girls
Din Mohammad, 60, is a retired teacher who joined the school shura because he believes: “It is our responsibility what happens here. Everything depends on school knowledge and development. If there is no school and no education, there is nothing at all.”
He said the shura made a special effort to recruit girls. “It’s really important that girls have an education. They must have the right to attain knowledge and to study,” observes Din Mohammad.
As the school expands, EQUIP is funding a variety of improvements, including the purchase of computers, science laboratory equipment, classroom furniture, and library materials. Some repairs have also been done on damaged buildings, says principal Bahadari. “When I first came, there were no windows, no electricity, and not enough classrooms, but year by year, it’s improving. The local community is contributing a lot, and so does EQUIP.”
In the computer room, student Anosha Shabir, 16, says she is enjoying lessons on programming, but so far the school has not managed to install internet, so it is difficult to learn more. “This is a very good start for many students who don’t have computers,” says Anosha. “But at home, I can do better research with the internet.”
Student Gulsom Amiry, 18, says she relies on the array of books and materials in the new library for her studies. Someday, Amiry hopes to be a lawyer.
A shura member, Bashir Faqiri, says adequate space for students is the biggest challenge at the school these days and elsewhere in the country. “Now, there are no empty schools in Afghanistan. The problem is finding ways to give students the space and everything else they need,” points out Faqiri.
Still, the shura is working with EQUIP and the local community to keep expanding school resources, says Faqiri. “We want education here for our children. It is a must. If a person is uneducated, then life is limited, and the future is so difficult.”