When School is Out — Classes are Becoming “In”

     Afghan children attend public schools no more than four hours a day six days a week. There are two school sessions, morning and afternoon. A teacher is required to teach only one session.
    Teachers can therefore teach before and after school classes, provided there is a room. For several years we have been financing before and after school math, science, computer, language and English classes.  We now employ 23 teachers, collectively teaching over 1,000 students, more than 50% of whom are girls.
     For the past couple of years we have been loaning computers to several government schools, enabling some of their students to work with a computer. As near as we can determine government schools have computer courses without computers. Our computers are available to the morning and afternoon sessions. They can not, therefore, be used for before and after school classes.
     Add to the limited hours and lack of computers the fact that teachers are required to teach 16 subjects to grades 7 and above; Pashto, Farsi, the Koran, Social Skills, Math, Religion, Art, Writing, Behavior, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English. Physical Education, Science, and Community Service. Geology is added in the 10th grade bringing the total to 17.
   After allocating time to the required subjects, students have had access to our computers 35 minutes a week. There are likely to be two to three students using each computer, sharing the 35 minutes.
      The solution?
Provide winter classes when students are out of school. Last year we began providing three month winter computer classes that are 1.5 hours long, six days a week. The number of students per computer is limited to two. They were full last winter and some had a waiting list.
     The cost?
$100- $150 per month for a computer teacher and wood for the heater plus the initial cost of buying a wood stove. Value added. Immeasurable.
    One challenge is persuading  parents to contribute to the cost of the classes. It’s not that TIE needs the money, although the more they contribute, the further our dollars will go. We, like all organizations, want to create programs that will become self sustainable over time.
      We’ve been told “impossible” by Farza educators.  The Aqa Ali Shams girls high school in Kabul established a three month winter session that lasted three hours a day, six days a week. Subjects taught during the session were computers, English, Physics, Math, Biology, Dari and Pashto.
      250 students enrolled in Aqa Ali Shams’ winter session and parents contributed $4 per student. This is a major achievement, a foot in the door, something we can now point to when promoting parental support of education.

    Another potential source for financial support are Shuras (local governing bodies – independent of the government). Aqa Ali Sham’s has a very supportive Shura.
      If memory serves me and it does less and less, when my children were in school in Lafayette, our Parent Teacher Association’s goal was to raise $200,000 per year for the school district. This year they are trying to raise is over $2.0 million.
     Two days ago I was very surprised to learn that a school in Afghanistan was able to raise $4 per child for a three month winter session.
     Winter sessions and winter courses are a major untapped resource that would greatly improve the education of Afghan children. They are so inexpensive, they can easily be financed by individuals or organizations like TIE. Later parents and Shuras will take over.
   At our clothing distribution event in Kabul in June 2014, representatives from 125 refugee families were brought to our office by buses, loaded up and driven back to their camp. Assuming an average of 10 family members per family that’s 1,250 people who were impacted by that distribution.clothing distr 06 2014nabi and old woman 06 2014
     It’s extremely difficult to spend three hours telling people they can’t have more.  We must divide what we have among over a thousand families living in camps. Too many are forced to beg and shout for more so that they and their family can survive.
red vines boy 2014

First time tasting Red Vines

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