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Attended by more than 5.000 students, the public primary and secondary school “Khwaja Boghra” is situated in one of the poorest districts of the Afghan capital of Kabul. At the beginning of our work at this school in 2015, the school was above all suffering from a lack of sufficient space and sanitary facilities. Additionally, building defects and a shortage of drinking water were dangerous threats to the children’s health. In 2015, we started by building five new classrooms. From 2017 on, in cooperation with our local partner VUSAF, we were able to improve sanitary conditions at the school. Subsequently, we planned the construction of 8 and 12 more classrooms, providing sufficient space for all students. Additionally, we equipped the school with a science laboratory, a computer room and four office rooms. Furthermore, we invested in continuing education for science and IT teachers.
Due to several wars and political instabilities, Afghanistan and its 38 million inhabitants are suffering from an ongoing volatile situation. The capital city Kabul is located in the eastern part of the country and is by far the most populous city of Afghanistan with over 3.9 million inhabitants. Numerous attacks resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people shape the daily lives of the Afghan population and impede the work of aid organizations. However, the people, and especially the children, need our help right now in building courage and hope for a better future.
Our project is located in Khwaja Boghra, one of the poorest districts in Kabul. People living in Khwaja Boghra often work in the agricultural or craft sector – provided they can even find jobs. In addition, child labor is still prevelent. At out project school, many of the students have to work either before or after school to support their families financially.
The public primary and secondary school “Khwaja Boghra” was built in 2009 and is attended in three shifts by 5.716 students (2019) aged 6-16: 2.621 girls and 3.095 boys. Before our activities, the school was equipped with three buildings of different sizes with about 20 classrooms and five latrines in a separate building. In the summer of 2015, our team member and colleague, Farhat Bafaiz, travelled to Afghanistan to visit her family. Her aunt is a teacher at the Khwaja Boghra school and asked Visions for Children e.V. for their help, since the buildings lacked sufficient space and were also in danger of collapsing. Farhat began immediately with a baseline investigation of the school’s situation.
The baseline assessment was a quick process. Two buildings had severe defects, which was a danger for the students and teachers. In addition, the lack of classrooms led to situations where students were taught outside despite intolerable temperatures: in summer around 40 degrees Celsius and in fall (around 2 degrees Celsius). There weren’t enough latrines (5 stalls in total), and the existing latrines were in urgent need of renovation. Additionally, a lack of access to drinking water disturbed the students’ everyday school life and their success in the classroom, since they had to go thirsty the whole day during the summer.
We began by completing the construction of five classrooms and supplying them with the necessary school equipment. This project was finished successfully in the beginning of 2016 and cost about €4,000.
After carefully planning, researching and preparing the next steps we built eight accessible and gender-separate sanitary facilities including hand-washing facilities and access to clean water. This project cost around €23,771, of which 75% was subsidized by public funds of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Through the optimization of the hygienic conditions at the school, the health status of the students and their education opportunities were dramatically improved.
In 2017, we provided 15 water/ weatherproof tents to provisionally counteract the acute shortage of space. This small measure was enough to increase the number of students who regularly attended classes. Of course, these tents were only a temporary solution, which is why we tackled the expansion of the school in several stages.
From 2018 on, the construction of eight new classrooms helped to improve the quality of lessons. In addition to the classrooms, also a science laboratory was built and teachers were trained in natural science workshops. These projects were finished successfully in 2019, and since then, science subjects have been taught at the school. The costs of this phase amounted to almost €185,000, of which 85% was financed by the BMZ through public funds.
Since the lack of sufficient space was still a problem, we started the construction of another building in August 2019. This time, the building will consist of 12 fully-equipped classrooms and four teachers’ rooms. The latter were built with the intention to enable the teachers to prepare and rework their classes, which is meant to increase the quality of their teaching. In addition, we equipped one of the classrooms with 16 computers. Since then, computer science classes were held by professional trainers for the higher grades. The trainers will instruct the future computer science teachers over a period of 16 months to enable them to teach the classes after they leave. These classes are a mandatory part of Afghanistan’s national curriculum but weren’t able to be taught at this school due to the lack of knowledge on the part of the teachers and a lack of training material. Attending computer science classes enables the students to develop key qualifications and increase their chances in finding a good professional education program and/or continuing education after school. The total cost of this stage, including the 12 new classrooms and the implementation of the computer science classes, was €419,000. The BMZ subsidized this with €290,000.
As another project, we built a playground for the younger students at the school with financial aid from the Senate Chancellery of Hamburg. The playground provides the children with a space to romp around and relax, which aids their ability to concentrate during their lessons. This project cost around €4,000.
The infrastructure measures were completed in December 2020. After that, computer courses were held for a total of 384 students and 4 teachers until the end of March. The teachers were trained to continue the IT lessons prescribed in the curriculum. At the beginning of the courses, more than 50% of the participants aged between 14 and 17 had never worked with a computer. In today’s world, this is fatal, as most continuing education and training programs require computer literacy. In fact, before the courses began, over 70% of the participants expressed a career aspiration where they would need these skills. For example, as engineers, doctors and teachers. After the courses, even more than 85% of the students aspired to this. We are therefore pleased that the participants have come one step closer to this future perspective: Our surveys showed a significant improvement in Microsoft Office and other IT skills, such as knowledge of basic hardware components. This opens up new education and training opportunities for the students and paves the way for them to lead independent, digitized lives.
In 2019, we conducted a survey for the first time of the students and teachers at the school in order to track the results and impact of our measures and derive potential modifications for future projects. The first results already showed an enormous increase in positive attitudes, hopes and learning motivations of the students thanks to improvements made to the learning environment. By the end of the project in 2021, we are planning to measure the impact of the whole project on the quality of education, attendance rate, learning success and motivation of the teachers and students by commissioning a professional external evaluation.
The construction work for the new building with 12 classrooms and 4 administration rooms has been completed. The rooms have also already been furnished. In the next few weeks, the building will be officially handed over to the school and education authority by our local partners and will be inaugurated by the students after the winter vacations.
Unfortunately, a big number of schools in Kabul are still closed. Only students in the higher grades are allowed to attend school. Fortunately, we were able to get a special permit for our computer science classes. To gain back the time we lost, we doubled the number of students in our classes per day. Now, 64 girls and 64 boys can attend computer science classes in four separate groups.
We have evaluated our surveys of 2019 and have mostly great news! Most hopes and attitudes of the girls have changed positively. They seem to be more motivated in attending classes and have more optimism for a better future by improving their education opportunities. Seems like the expansion of the school has already made an impact.
To make sure the school is being provided with electricity for the computer science classes, solar panels are installed to generate sustainable power for the school.
Our project partner was able to get a special permit for our project so we can at least continue with the construction work of 12 new class rooms.
The Corona-pandemic majorly affects Afghanistan. In fact, inhabitants of Kabul are particularly at risk due to a poor health system which is quickly overloaded. Too little testing and a lack of information about the virus intensify the dangerous situation. In Afghanistan, schools are required to close, and our computer science courses as well as our construction work have to be paused.
OASE, a spin-off of our project partner, VUSAF, is now focusing on educational projects like ours, while VUSAF focuses on vocational trainings and women’s projects. Our contacts and people in charge stay the same. It is therefore a formal change which enables the professionalization of both VUSAF and OASE in their future endeavors.
In a further project trip to Kabul, our chairwoman, Hila Limar, is accompanied by our member, Winuss Azizi. They repeat the survey and ask around 200 girls the same questions as were asked at the beginning of the year. This time 50 boys are also surveyed. This follow-up enables us to compare the results of the questionnaires and to measure the successes and failures of our projects.
At the beginning of October 2019, the computer science courses start: one of the eight new classrooms is equipped with 16 laptops and further equipment. Additionally, the cornerstone of the new building is laid in a rather small ceremony attended by some students, teachers and the principal, as well as our local partner, VUSAF, and the Minister of Education.
Finally: our application for a third project phase is approved! The construction of twelve new classrooms and the creation of accompanying computer science courses can be started! Let’s go!
Hooray: the new building is officially inaugurated and handed over to the education ministry on the 25th of July, 2019. This is followed by the preparation of the final report for the BMZ. In addition, science workshops are conducted for the teachers.
Hila Limar visits the school again, this time accompanied by our member, Arthur Fedai. Besides examining the progress of the construction and talking with the principal and our project partner, a survey is conducted for the very first time. More than 240 girls are asked about their daily school life experiences and wishes by way of questionnaires and group discussions.
After the cold winter and a pause on the construction work, the building of eight new classrooms proceeds again.
Our chairwoman, Hila Limar, travels to Afghanistan for the first time, after she and her family left the country in her early childhood. She visits our project site at the “Khwaja Boghra” school and is even able to participate in the cornerstone-laying ceremony. Moreover, she finally has the opportunity to meet the team of our project partner, VUSAF, in person.
After a few work-intensive days, we finally submit our application for public funds for our second project phase to the BMZ. Because of the severe lack of sufficient space, we want to start constructing a new building with eight class rooms in August 2018.
Finally, we submit the final report with all of the expense reports and pictures to the BMZ. We apply for further funds for a second project phase at the school.
The sanitary and handwashing facilities are finally finished. They are handed over to the education ministry on the 26th of December 2017. This is followed by the official financial audit and the preparation of the final report for the BMZ.
Our member, Salim Khamoush, went to Kabul for ten days to have a look at the progress of the project. The construction work is almost finished. Furthermore, Salim solidifies our personal contact to our partners, VUSAF and MMCC.
Students and teachers learn about hygiene, health and nutrition in a one-day-workshop. The Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC) complement the workshops with a thematic performance.
Due to the severe lack of sufficient space, 15 water/weatherproof UNICEF tents are provided to the school. This ensures that classes do not have to be held outside leading to a rise in attendance rate.
The company PRIZMA is commissioned to construct the sanitary facilities. A small ceremony is held to lay the cornerstone, and the construction of eight latrines and a handwashing facility has successfully started.
The BMZ approves our first application for public funding. The construction of eight new toilets and hand-washing facilities poised to start in the fall.
The construction of the five classrooms is finished, and they are equipped with tables and benches.
The construction work of five new classrooms begins.
Our member, Farhat, visits the public school Khwaja Boghra and assesses the initial situation. The school is in urgent need of classrooms. Lessons are being held in dilapidated classrooms and, in some cases, even outside.