In Shahrak e Muhajireen, a mountainous village in Afghanistan’s central highlands, 28-year old Surayaa Hussaini is passionate about transforming the lives of illiterate girls and women.
Surayaa left Nili, the capital of Daikundi, to serve vulnerable girls and women in the village of Shahrak e Muhajireen, home to nearly 1,500 people. As a mother of two children, and a trained teacher in accelerated learning, Surayaa is determined to teach girls and women how to read and write.
“I tried to engage the local community to teach women, but no one was willing to help,” says Surayaa. “I decided to use one of the rooms in my house to develop girls’ and women’s basic literacy and numeracy skills.”
Most of the women in the class do not otherwise get a chance to learn, as they reside in remote areas, and are busy with marital life.
“I have 27 girls and women attending class, and the demand is on the rise,” says Surayaa with a smile. “These women had lost hope in learning, yet still had a glimpse of hope,” she adds.
Girls and women make up half of society in Afghanistan … they cannot be neglected when it comes to giving them education opportunities .
Education is critical
According to a report newly released by the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF, 3.7 million school-aged children are out of school: this is half this age group in Afghanistan. The situation is even worse for girls, where 60 percent of the out-of-school population are girls.
“Education is an important and critical investment for bringing peace and development to Afghanistan,” says Adele Khodr, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative. “Girls make up half of society in Afghanistan. As such they cannot be neglected when it comes to giving them education opportunities. Education will enable girls to contribute to nation-building in Afghanistan,” she adds.
People living in Shahrak e Muhajireen are mostly illiterate and need Surayaa’s help to be able to read and write.
By opening their home, Surayaa and her husband Baqir are doing much more than just providing an opportunity for these girls and women to learn. They are also providing a child-friendly space for women’s young children — by securing cradles for their babies — while mothers learn.
“This was a joint decision. My wife Surayaa was heartbroken when she found out that many girls and women have been deprived from education,” says Baqir. “Without hesitation, I agreed with her to host the class in our own home,” he adds.
Shafiqa, 20, a formerly illiterate mother of two, is proud to be involved. “I am so happy to be part of this class,” says Shafiqa. “I can read and write now, and I can help my own children in their homework,” she adds.
In 2017, UNICEF, along with the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan and partners, reached more than 3.5 million children with teaching and learning material, and created more than 6,000 community-based schools and accelerated learning centres to enable out-of-school children to learn and be reintegrated into their school system.
“I enjoy transforming the lives of women for the better,” says Surayaa. “It is women like Shafiqa who give me the satisfaction and inspiration to continue to spread knowledge,” adds Surayaa.
Feridoon Aryan is the UNICEF Communication Officer in Kabul, Afghanistan.