Professor Sees Hunger for Education in Afghanistan

Afghanistan school

CRS board member visits a village school near Chaghcharan, Afghanistan. 15 girls and 10 boys were present, and demonstrated their skills in reading, math, and geography. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

Professors like Carolyn Woo have seen a lot of battered textbooks, but probably few as cherished as those she saw Sunday in the tiny Afghan village of Bahari Olia. The board member traveled dirt roads to a mud-brick room where CRS has created a school for 25 boys and girls.

“Can you show me what’s in your backpacks?” Woo asked the students, who ranged in age from about six to twelve. They carefully pulled out math, reading, and other books provided by CRS.

Books are a rarity in the villages of Ghor province: few Afghans in this remote area know how to read. In those cases where a public school exists, the government is often unable to provide books. CRS trains teachers and distributes books to make sure each student has a chance for a quality education. CRS also gives the children notebooks, pens, and slates–all hard to come by in a place where many families can barely afford bread.

Afghanistan classroom

CRS board member Carolyn Woo visits a classroom in Chaghcharan, Afghanistan. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

One boy shared the day’s reading lesson, a story about a wily little chicken who deceives a hungry fox. A girl did a math problem on the board to the applause of her classmates. Woo asked about recess (no surprise: the children like it) and about whether after school they played first or did their homework. “We do our homework first,” said one girl.

The Bahari Olia school is one of hundreds that CRS has started in Afghanistan. CRS puts a special emphasis on educating Afghan girls, who traditionally do not leave their villages to walk long distances to school, and thus may miss out even when a public school is in the region. Thousands of village girls know how to read, write, and do math thanks to the program.

Woo remarked on the students’ enthusiasm. “They seem really committed,” she said. “They are so happy to be in school.”

- Laura Sheahen, CRS regional information officer for Asia and the Pacific Rim

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