Before the opening of the Zabuli Education Center, girls in area villages had no way to obtain even the most basic, formalized education.
In 1996, the Taliban regime outlawed the education of girls and women. In 2001, after the Taliban were overthrown, the Afghan government — with the help of international aid agencies — began to slowly rebuild the education system. However, illiteracy is still prevalent and the education of girls still lags markedly behind the education of boys.
Girls who attend school at the Zabuli Education Center are from poor families. Most have experienced extreme hardship compared to their counterparts in the developed world. They have many chores to do at home, caring for younger siblings and helping with the work of survival in a war-torn country. Some of their fathers had to be convinced to support — or at least tolerate — their daughters’ education.
Students range in age from 4 to 22. Prior to enrollment, students take placement tests to assess their academic levels, as girls of the same age can vary widely in grade level depending on how much informal learning they have been exposed to. All students wear uniforms, which is a help to poor families that may have extremely limited resources for obtaining clothing and maintaining clean laundry.
Zabuli students are highly motivated to come to school. Many walk a considerable distance — 45 minutes each way or more — in order to attend. Unlike many children in the United States who need to be prodded out of bed and ushered to school, Zabuli students literally come running to the school building. Education is a way out for these girls: not only a break from difficult home life and a chance to exercise their minds, but a ray of hope for the future.
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