Most families served by Trust in Education live in villages. Surrounded by barren brown landscape, these villages have simple homes made of mud and brick. Life for the villagers changes very slowly. Walking is the main form of transportation. Most don’t have electricity or running water. They depend on stoves for heat and lanterns for light. If fortunate, they may have a generator for a few hours of power each night. That is, if they can afford fuel. Children fetch water from streams and wells that are often very far from their homes.
The average family has eight children. One out of five children dies before the age of five. Rural villages have large extended families that live in compounds behind high walls. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins may share the same house, which might only have three or four rooms. Families are “close,” perhaps too close at times. For women, exposure to the outside world is monitored, and not within their control.
Villagers get up early during the growing season, so they can work the fields and tend to their cows, sheep or goats, before it becomes too hot to work. Cow dung is often used for cooking fires. Some men work as day laborers or in small market stalls. Given a choice, most farmers would not grow opium. It violates their religion. Opium is more profitable than most crops, however, and many farmers are being forced to grow poppy by drug lords and certain factions of the Taliban.
There are not nearly enough schools for all the children who would like to attend. Several schools provide three four-hour shifts to accommodate as many children as they can.
While things are getting better, we’ve visited schools where children don’t have textbooks or any essential supplies such pens, pencils, paper, and notebooks. Children are taught using the rote method, using memorization and repetition. TIE has brought playground equipment, soccer fields, soccer programs, art and computer classes to several schools. Enrollment and attendance in these schools has increased. Why? Because—as we were told—going to school is now fun!
There are two to three times more boys attending school than girls. Educating girls, in some areas, is a capital offense, for which over 200 teachers have been killed. As if overcoming threats by extremists weren’t enough, girls are pulled out of school to get married, often against their will. Many parents are more concerned about their daughters getting a good husband over a good education. TIE’s teachers are actively engaged in convincing families to allow their daughters to attend and stay in school for as long as they can. Through education, these barriers to entry and freedom for girls will break down over time. We just need to be patient and to persevere.