Steps Towards Afghan Girls’ Education Success (STAGES) is part of the UK Aid Funded Girls’ Education Challenge, the world’s largest global fund dedicated to girls’ education, supporting up to 1.5m marginalised girls with access to education and learning across 17 countries.
STAGES has established Community-based education (CBE) classes, targeting over 20,000 girls in remote or insecure areas who lack access to formal schools; school-aged married girls; and older girls who missed the opportunity to go to school. The project is also training teachers and school management councils.
Girls’ education in Afghanistan
It is estimated that in between 60%-75% of out-of-school children are girls, and in some provinces as many as 85% of girls are out of school in Afghanistan. Girls in Afghanistan face many barriers to accessing an education. Harmful gender norms often result in boy’s education prioritised over girls, and in a country where a third of girls marry before age 18, child marriage forces many girls out of education. Whilst the number of schools and enrolment rates have increased, literacy rates remain extremely low particularly for girls and women, with the national female literacy rate at 17% , limiting their future job prospects and opportunities.
A lack of girls-only schools and female teachers provides a significant barrier to education for the 2.2 million girls that are still left behind in Afghanistan. Female participation at teacher and school management levels is often not visible, which further discourages or prevents female students continuing with their studies. As a result, most adolescent girls drop out of school before starting secondary education. Additionally, there are limited teaching opportunities that require candidates to take an exam, which is highly competitive.
The Girls’ Education Challenge is addressing these challenges through teacher training. Recent research from the Girls’ Education Challenge on teaching shows the importance of ensuring effective professional development of teachers. In Parwan Province, STAGES has established Girls Learn to Teach (GLTTA) class in three schools, which has included sessions on teaching methods, practices and teaching activities. From this, the Provincial Education Department went on to hire three girls who completed the classes as government school teachers.
Aziza, one of the GLTTA students who successfully passed the teacher exam and now teaches in a local school stated, “I face no problem when teaching as I have learned teaching skills and methods participating the GLTTA programme. I am also able to use the teaching materials, giving me time and encouraging the students to take part in class activities.”
Sahar, one of Miss Aziza’s students, stated: “Our teacher, Miss Aziza, is teaching differently from the other teachers. For example, she always gives students a chance to take part in class activities and allows students to ask their questions easily, explaining and sharing their ideas with no fear. Now all my classmates and I are happy that we have Miss Aziza who, just like our previous community-based teacher, is talented and kind.”
The Girls’ Education Challenge is not only supporting girls in Afghanistan with the skills needed to learn but is also helping and empowering the next generation of female teachers and role models such as Aziza. Having women at the front of the classroom to teach, serve as role models and show that honourable, safe employment is a real prospect provides motivation for girls to attend and persevere in school for future generations.