Since the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021 Afghanistan’s education system has suffered immensely. Wars and terrorists destroyed many schools, while others fell victim to aging and neglect. After the Taliban’s rise to power, funding has all but dried up. What remains is often a sad combination of crumbling buildings, broken desks and equipment, and a dearth of computers and books. The lack of a dependable electrical supply made it difficult, if not impossible, to bring power to schools. Some students are taught in tents that provide little protection against the elements. Worst of all, women are banned from universities and girls are only allowed to receive an education up to the sixth grade.
While these challenges might seem insurmountable, Women for Afghan Women (WAW) saw this as an opportunity. In 2023, WAW set out to refurbish and modernize ten schools in Kabul that serve or will serve 52,995 students, 33,551 of whom are girls and 19,444 are boys. Each school was assessed by WAW for its ability to be renovated and equipped. By the end of the year, WAW finished six school projects with four more to be completed in 2024.
Here are the stories of two schools that gave students a chance to learn in rehabilitated buildings.
The Bibi Zainab Kobra Girls High School, Kabul
This school, built in 1979, is located in southeast Kabul City, and is one of the largest for girls. Though the name would imply students receive an education up to the twelfth grade, girls are only allowed to be educated up to the sixth grade. Currently, 6,127 girls study here, during three separate sessions during the day to accommodate them all. 133 female teachers and eight male teachers are on staff.
WAW’s technical team inspected the property and discovered that, out of all of the schools they considered for rehabilitation, it was one of the most vulnerable. In addition to damage sustained to the school’s infrastructure, its writing boards were worn, the desks and chairs were either in poor or unsalvageable condition, and there were not enough for each of the classrooms. Since Kabul had unreliable access to a steady supply of electricity, the school was not able to power its building. There were also no computers available for the students to use.
In August 2023, WAW began work to completely renovate the school. It was not an easy task, because of the vast amount of work needed to bring the school up to modern standards. Repairs were made throughout the building, including installing solar panels for a consistent source of electricity. Walls were replastered and painted. Holes in the floors were filled. Sixteen classrooms were renovated and brand new or repaired desks filled them. New whiteboards enabled teachers to present their lessons to girls eager to learn. Administrative offices received new furniture and office equipment as well, so that they could efficiently run the school.
After the renovation was completed, a ceremony to open the school took place on December 13, 2023. WAW’s Country Director, Fareed-ud-Din Noori officially handed over the school to its administrators. This ceremony included the Director of Kabul’s Educational Department, Head of Educational District, local elders, the principal of Bibi Zainab Kobra Girls High School, its teachers, the students and the engineering team from Kabul education department.
Bibi Zainab Kobra Girls High School’s administrative staff, teachers, students, and support staff expressed their sincere gratitude for WAW’s generous donations to the school. They shared a message that said, “We all appreciate your kind donations, as this was possible only because of you. It helped us have new chairs, desks, tables, laptop computers, and a completely renovated school building. Before this project’s implementation, we had several severe problems regarding having standard chairs and a standard school building.”
Now, these students will learn in gleaming new classrooms designed to bring out the fullest potential in these girls, who will hopefully one day be allowed to further their education through high school and onto university.
Mohammad Ibrahim Khwakhogi High School
Mohammad Ibrahim Knwakhogi High School is located in one of Kabul’s most underserved areas, Built in 2008, this school educates both boys and girls from the first through sixth grade, and males from seventh grade through twelfth. At present, there are 3,055 students, including 1,665 girls and 1,390 boys. Teaching staff includes 46 female teachers and 39 male teachers. There are four male school support staff.
Previously, students sat on bare cement floors in classrooms with exposed brick and improvised whiteboards made from plastic sheeting. Crumbling window sills and broken windows exposed the classrooms to the elements. There was no electricity.
Many of the same repairs were made to Khwakhogi High School as the Kobra High School. These repairs began in August 2023 and were completed in December 2023. WAW renovated the entire building by shoring up its infrastructure and replacing the roof. This allowed for a 5 KW solar panel system to be installed.
With a steady supply of electricity now functioning, a 16-laptop computer lab, complete with new desks and chairs, was created. Shiny new tables and benches that seat three students fill freshly-painted classrooms. Brand new whiteboards hang on the front walls, ready for teachers to instruct their students. Now everyone at the school enjoys an environment that encourages learning.
A renovation ceremony that handed over the school to the district took place on December 28, 2023. As with Kobra High school, WAW’s Country Director Fareed-ud-Din Noori presented the school to local educational representatives as a fully-functional place for students to learn. The Director of the Kabul Educational Department, WAW’s Country Director, the Head of the Educational District, the school’s principal, teachers, students, and the engineering team from the Kabul Education Department participated in the ceremony.
WAW is honored to provide its funding, expertise, and resources to renovate schools in Kabul. Education is a right for everyone, and it strives to provide the opportunity for all, especially girls.
Blog written by Gretchen Weerheim, Women for Afghan Women
Photo provided by WAW staff