Accelerated learning centers transform girls lives

Restoring hope to girls’ and young women’s lives

By Monica Awad
Education in emergency - Samangan
UNICEF Afghanistan/Mohammadi

03 February 2019

Samangan, Afghanistan - 03 February 2019 - “I will be a role model for girls and women in my community,” says Tahira, 42. 

Tahira is one of many women and young girls attending UNICEF-supported accelerated learning centres.  At the centre, girls and women learn basic literacy and numeracy skills.  They also acquire critical life skills such as cooperation, team work, communication and creativity.

For thousands of girls like Tahira, education was not possible.  Living in Dara Suf Bala district of Samangan province, north central of Afghanistan, Tahira had limited opportunity to learn.

“I come from an illiterate family who pushed me to attend ‘Madrassa’, a religious school,” recalls Tahira with sadness.  “We had no schools for girls, and at the ‘Madrassa’ I learned nothing due to the difficult teaching methods.”

Initially, Tahira lost hope in education.  Like the vast majority of girls, she got married at an early age.

A recent study showed that in 42 per cent of households had at least one member of their family who got married before the age of 18.  Yet, significant regional disparities exist, varying from 21 per cent of households in Ghor to 66 per cent in Paktia having at least one member who got married before the age of 18. 

 “Child marriage robs children, especially girls of their right to education, health and childhood. Since all parents want the very best for their children, we must work together to ensure that all girls are in school and learning.”

Sonia Sukdeo, Education Specialist, UNICEF Afghanistan
Education in emergency - Samangan
UNICEF Afghanistan
Left to Right; Tahira, 42, in Black, attends a UNICEF-supported accelerated learning centre in Samngan, Afghanistan, which is funded by the German National Committee

To raise awareness to the negative impact of child marriage, UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Afghanistan and community influencers to educate communities, especially fathers to the importance of girls’ education in putting an end to child marriage.

Education made possible

UNICEF established an accelerated learning centre in Tahira’s community.  Her neighbour informed her about the centre, encouraging her to enroll. “As soon as I found out about the centre, I became overwhelmingly happy,” recalls Tahira.  As a married woman, Tahira had to ask for permission from her husband to attend classes. 

“As a married woman, I had to seek my husband’s approval,” says Tahira.  “I was able to convince him mostly that the centre was close to my house, and the teacher was a female.” With other women and young girls, Tahira enrolled in class, acquiring new skills.  “At the beginning, I was embarrassed to sit with young girls,” recalls Tahira.  “It has been five months now, and I am proud to say that I can read and write.”

In 2018, UNICEF supported 5,300 community based schools and accelerated learning centres in remote areas, reaching more than 150,000 students.  More than half of these students are girls.  “These centres provide girls with opportunities to learn,” says Sukdeo.  “Thanks to our partners and donors, including the German National Committee, more than 36,000 students have transitioned to formal schools.”

At the centre, girls and young woman acquire literacy and numeracy skills.  They also acquire critical skills for life, including religion that will help them to improve their lives and those of their loved ones.  

“I am now a strong advocate for girls’ education, encouraging girls and young women to learn,” says Tahira.  “To advance our village in specific, and our country as a whole, we can only do it through education.”

Education in emergency - Samangan
UNICEF Afghanistan
Tahira, dressed in black, is writing on the board at UNICEF-supported accelerated learning centre in Samangan province, Afghanistan, which is funded by the German National Committee