KABUL, Afghanistan - At Daricha-e-Noor or ‘Window of Knowledge’ School, there are no lights, fans, desks, chairs, books, a library, or much else needed to teach 1,627 children, but they do have a group determined to help them.
The elementary school in Qargha locality of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, recently organized a shura, a council of 15 neighborhood elders, parents, teachers, mosque leaders, and students. The council was formally created under the Ministry of Education’s Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), with support from the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), the council is now formulating a plan to improve and expand their school with EQUIP funding.
Already, the school shura has recruited 75 new students in just three months. Among these children is Rahnoor, 10, whose family recently fled violence in Wardak province where her school was burned to the ground. “I couldn’t do my last exams because the Taliban destroyed my school,” says Rahnoor. “They said it was shameful for daughters to go to school, but I love school. I love to learn everything. I had so many friends.”
EQUIP’s objective is to increase access to quality basic education, especially for girls, through school grants and teacher training with support from communities and private providers.
Civil war and subsequent Taliban rule in the 1990s destroyed Afghanistan’s education system, and girls were forbidden to attend school. Today, about 50% of schools do not have proper buildings, and about half of teachers have not graduated from Grade 12. However, girls’ enrollment has increased to 3 million from less than 200,000 in 2002, while boys’ attendance jumped to about 4.5 million from less than one million.
To promote social awareness and mobilization, an important first step for EQUIP is the organization of shuras, which manage their schools based on local priorities.
Shura increases student enrollment
At Daricha-e-Noor school, Mohammad Bashir joined the shura because his 10-year-old daughter attends Grade 5 there. “We came together in a shura here because we have passed three decades of war and education is all we want now,” says Bashir.
“If our people can be educated, our country will have peace, not guns or weapons.”
Mullah Mohammad Ismail, a local mosque leader, agrees with Bashir. “I joined this shura because it is important for this country that our new generation be educated. Our Prophet says that both men and women must have an education,” says Ismail.
Local shopkeeper Mehrab Shah, 65, says he has always done everything in his power to encourage children to attend school. “I very much regret that I can’t read or write, that I couldn’t attend school,” says Shah, “and this is why I am joining the shura.”