Our private K-12 girls’ school, the Zabuli Education Center, provides more than 480 girls with free education as well as uniforms, shoes, warm coats, and meals. Our Afghan staff of 19 teachers and administrators is supported by a small, US-based foundation team. We provide groundbreaking instruction to disadvantaged girls in a region with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Where many existing schools fail to meet even rudimentary standards, our school is exemplary. A Ministry of Education official said of the Zabuli Education Center: “It is perfect.”
Named for the late Abdul Madjid Zabuli, a businessman and philanthropist who was committed to improving education in Afghanistan, the Zabuli Education Center is located 30 miles outside of Kabul in the district of Deh’Subz. This district is comprised of 46 villages, with a total of approximately 100,000 residents including a large number of nomadic families.
The Zabuli Education Center is built on the historic site of a former boys’ school. The gift of a beloved Afghan king in the 1930s, the original building was all but destroyed by 30 years of war and terrorism. The new three-story building is located in a relatively safe area within walking distance of seven villages. The school opened its doors in March 2008, and now provides free education to more than 400 Afghan girls who were previously denied educational opportunities. Students range in age from four to twenty-two. The curriculum is both academic and practical, taught by experienced, native teachers.
The Zabuli Education Center was founded by Afghan native Razia Jan. Razia’s dream of a school for girls became reality through the collaboration of several extraordinary women — as well as the vital support from generous organizations and the hard work of staff and our advisory board.
The Zabuli Education Center is ahead of its time, providing an education on par with Western schools—for free. Our success begins with the school-building philosophy. As many organizations have learned the hard way, a school will not last long without the community’s support: a 2009 study by CARE found that schools built by NGOs with community participation are much less vulnerable to attack. Our founder Razia Jan, a native Afghan, worked tirelessly to gain the community’s acceptance. Although villagers initially rejected the idea of a school for girls, today Razia is hailed by village elders — with whom she meets on a monthly basis — as the “Mother of Deh’Subz.”
The most important distinction of the Zabuli Education Center is its level of continued support from its administrative organization, Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation. Seventy-three percent of our students live below the poverty line and cannot afford to pay for education at all, let alone the exorbitant fees charged by most private schools in the region. Your sponsorship enables us to provide our students the education they need for free, as well as uniforms, shoes, warm coats, and meals. But our organization’s involvement means more than providing full financial support; it also means guaranteeing that the quality of our education meets the standards we set.
We begin by hiring dedicated, qualified teachers, a difficult task, as competent teachers are rare in Afghanistan. Our team searches for individuals that meet our requirements, and we pay them 40%-60% more than typical schools in Afghanistan. Each of our teachers has graduated high school and many are credentialed or completing teacher training. We hire locally when possible, but the majority of our teachers live in Kabul. We provide transport to and from school every day.
Zabuli Education Center students attend class for 5.5 hours daily: 182 school days per year in the primary school and 186 in the upper grades. In addition, K-12 students are encouraged to attend class during the three-month winter break. Our largest class has only 25 students, and our educational resources include a fully equipped computer room and science lab.