Learning today; inspiring tomorrow
How the Girls’ Access to Teacher Education programme empowers Afghanistan’s working mothers
Kandahar, Afghanistan: Royeda, 41, attends the Girls’ Access to Teacher Education (GATE) program in the Dand district of Kandahar province. Training to be a teacher, she is in her first year of the two-year scholarship program. Royeda juggles being a mother to her two children, a wife to Abdul Nabi, a part-time student as well as a part-time teacher. In the morning, her daughter, Rahmania, aged 8, goes to school. But in the afternoon, she joins her mother’s teacher training class because there is no one to look after her at home.
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Susan and Stefan Findel through the German National Committee, support the GATE programme in Kandahar and other provinces in the country to increase the female teacher population, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
This is critical because in Afghanistan over 60% of girls are out-of-school. In Dand, a hard-to-reach area, this figure increases to 80%.
Royeda walks 9-10 km to the teacher training center. As a woman living in a conservative society, it is difficult for Royeda to reach her class. She feels unsafe and uncomfortable walking through villages and senses different communities’ eyes on her. She believes that people are judging her for choosing a career as well as being a wife and a mother.
From left: Royeda, Rahmania, Royeda’s husband, Abdul Nabi, and 6-year-old son, Masih. They live in a basic home. But despite many economic challenges and the ongoing conflict and insecurity, the family is happy and they support each other’s aspirations.
Abdul Nabi has not worked for four years. On many occasions, he has not been able to afford basic stationary items to support his children’s learning in school.
He said, “I had no choice but to ask the shopkeeper, Rahimullah, for a loan to buy pens and pencils. Because I know him, he trusts me, and when Royeda receives her salary, I pay him back. I’m so grateful for his trust and kindness.”
To make life easier and safer for his wife, Abdul Nabi bought a motorbike to transport Royeda to her teacher training course.
Abdul Nabi says, “I know the security situation is very tough and society is conservative, but I encourage my wife to continue her education – not only for the financial stability of our family but also to strengthen our society.”
In a sign of her commitment to continuous learning, Royeda has set up a small library in her modest home. On cramped shelves that hold many household items, she stores her precious books, photocopied chapters from the teacher training center, and stories for her children.
On a part-time basis, Royeda teaches second grade students at the Qaseem Girls’ High School in the district of Kandahar. She puts into practice everything that she has learned on the GATE course – for example, how to design a teaching syllabus, how to use different teaching methods, and how to inspire the next generation of girls in Kandahar.
In the current 2019-2021 GATE cohort in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNICEF are training more than 365 female teachers, such as Royeda. 130 female teachers have graduated from the GATE program so far. More female teachers mean that parents are more likely to send their daughters to school.
In the coming years, the MoE and UNICEF plan to train 4,500 more dedicated female teachers through GATE and expand community-based schools to the most excluded and vulnerable children, especially girls.