Mission: To educate Afghanistan’s street working and war-affected children and give them and Afghanistan a brighter future.
Twenty-three years of war and oppression in Afghanistan have caused the Afghan people, especially the children, severe mental and physical suffering. Many parents have been killed or disabled and whole families have been displaced. Many very poor families are still struggling to earn a living. Often children have been unable to continue their education or have not had the opportunity for education as they were out of the country or living as internally displaced citizens.
Since its foundation in 1995, Aschiana has become the leader in educating Afghanistan’s street and war affected girls and boys. ASCHIANA (Afghanistan’s Children - A New Approach) is an Afghan NGO registered with the Ministry of Economy. Aschiana means ‘nest’ in Dari, one of the main languages in Afghanistan. The organization’s mission is to assist the thousands of war-affected Afghan children and their distressed families to provide them with a more positive and productive future.
Aschiana operates seven centres and three outreach programmes in Kabul; centres in Mazar-e-Sharif, Charikar and Parwan Province; and programmes in Qarabagh district and Herat. Sixty percent of the students are girls. Each day over 4,500 girls and boys attend Aschiana’s centres and receive a hot, nutritious lunch.
Aschiana offers a variety of educational and vocational programmes. Children aged 8 to 10 learn to read and write so that they are academically able to join the regular Afghan schools. Children aged 10 to 13 years receive a basic education, recreation time and some professional training. Those aged 14 to 18 are taught reading, writing and vocational skills needed to earn money to support themselves and their families. Vocational courses include plumbing, electronics and small machine repair, masonry, carpentry, woodworking, computer technology, photography, tailoring, embroidery and hairdressing.
Aschiana also offers art education in calligraphy, watercolour, oil painting, wood carving and pottery. The music programme teaches children to play traditional Afghan instruments and sing traditional Afghan songs, therefore preserving the children’s cultural heritage.
A unique accelerated education programme has been formulated for girls whose education was disrupted due to the Taliban and civil war. The programme compresses two years of school into one year using the regular Afghan school curriculum of the Ministry of Education.
The students’ health is considered very important. All students attend health and hygiene education classes. Aschiana’s mobile clinic visits the Kabul area centres providing check-ups and diagnosing and treating minor problems. Aschiana’s social workers visit student’s homes and workplaces to make sure there is continued support on a family level.
Aschiana’s other programmes include financial and entrepreneurial training, including a micro-finance loan facility for women, and a children’s development bank which is managed by the children themselves. The students at Aschiana also write and publish their own newsletter.
Aschiana’s future includes plans to open centres in provinces where as yet no centres currently exist - such as Khost, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Kunduz and Bamiyan. And in 2008 construction of a new, larger centre in Kabul will begin.
Report from Lucy Gordon, Aschiana Trustee, Kabul, September 2007