It is no secret that when women and girls have the opportunity to pursue an education, they directly improve their communities and help entire societies grow. And sometimes, the goodwill and dedication of individual Americans, connected virtually through sites like Facebook, help girls in a rural district of Afghanistan realize their dreams of education and a better future.
As DipNote reported a few months ago, U.S. Embassy Kabul supports the "Teen Teach" program, where Afghan teenagers are trained and then have the chance to teach in classrooms of younger students.
In Chaparhar, a city in Nangarhar district, about 23 kilometers south of Jalalabad close to the eastern border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Shulani School participated in the "Teen Teach" program. Despite threats to their safety, the parents walk their children to school everyday. Unfortunately, an attack in March of this year left eight of the school's classrooms destroyed. Despite this setback, the teachers were astonished and inspired when more than 400 enthusiastic students arrived over the course of three days to continue their studies. One father took a photo of some of the girls studying among the rubble, which ended up on Facebook.
Representatives from PAX, a Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) grantee that hosts State Department scholarship high school students from different parts of the world and based in Port Chester, NY, noticed the picture online and offered to donate $1,000 to purchase five tents so the girls would not have to sit in the hot sun during classes. Until the tents arrived, close to 1,350 students were forced to study under the shade of trees and walls in the village. The tents are not only providing shelter, but they also create a sense of a classroom setting, something they had not had since the classrooms were destroyed.
In thanking PAX, school principal Mr. Sahibul Haq said, "On behalf of students and the community of Shulani, I extend special thanks to the PAX-Host Mothers for donating these tents. This kind of support tells us that we are not alone. It also gives us strength to fight those who push our generation towards the darkness of ignorance."
As Secretary of State Clinton has said, "No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs." And in the small city of Chaparhar, a small gesture has made the world of difference. And these girls know that they have the support, and now the shelter, from thousands of miles away.
More information about "Teen Teach" can be found here. "Teen Teach," funded through a small embassy grant to the Gandahara Education and Vocational Services, offers free English classes to more than 4,300 students, grades 6-9, also providing a small income to the talented "Teen" teachers and their families.