SANGMOM VILLAGE, Daykundi Province – Dozens of girls in robin egg-blue school uniforms and white headscarves are running around the schoolyard of Zainabia Sanmom Girls High School. A volleyball match between two school teams is going on, and groups of girls sit in the shade of the sturdy school building, cheering on the players. The whitewashed walls of the school are painted with the labeled flags of dozens of countries.
Inside, groups of girls sit at small desks, reading aloud from books as their teacher leads the lesson from the blackboard. In the school’s red-carpeted computer laboratory, girls gather in pairs around solar-powered desktop computers, learning to use them. “When we first came to this building, we had just classrooms and blackboards, that was it,” says Kobra Haidari, the school principal, about Zainabia Sanmom Girls High School.
The school has an enrollment of over 1,000 students from about 400 households in Sangmom village in Daykundi Province in central Afghanistan. It was able to improve its facilities and teaching materials with the help from the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). EQUIP provided the school an Infrastructure Development Grant (IDG) in 2008 and a Quality Enhancement Grant (QEG) a year later.
Both grants were used to buy computers, laboratory materials, and solar panels, establish a library, dig a well for clean drinking water, and paint the school walls. The school also bought trees and other plants to educate students on the importance of preserving the environment and to green the school grounds.
“The grants provided us with the necessary supplies and the students are happier and more eager to come to school now,” says Kobra Haidari. At the same time, the EQUIP support inspired the school administration and community to start their own school improvement projects, including the creation of volleyball teams, essay competitions, and poetry readings.
As a result, the quality of teaching has improved as teachers are equipped with the appropriate teaching aids and materials to conduct laboratory experiments and other hands-on exercises. “Before, we didn’t have computers and all of our lessons were theoretical,” says Sakina Hussaini, 25, a computer and history teacher at the school. “With the computers, the lessons are going well.”
EQUIP, now in its second phase, seeks to increase equitable access to quality basic education, especially for girls. It is implemented by the Ministry of Education and was first funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) has taken over funding as co-financier of the project.