Afghan students enjoy a roof over their heads at school
Not long ago, the 420 students of the Afghan Mena Elementary School had to study in an open lot because their school did not have enclosed classrooms. Today, students sit in classrooms in a two-story building in Jalalabad city, the capital of Nangarhar Province.
Zermeha, 37, mother of three children who study at the school recalls the uncomfortable conditions before the school building was built: “In the past, it was all sun and dust, and our kids were ill all the time,” she says as she waits at the school’s front gate to pick up her children. “Now we are very comfortable. I don’t have to worry anymore where my children will sit at school, how they can keep their clothes clean or what they can do to avoid catching an illness.”
Following the Bonn agreement and the establishment of the Afghan interim administration in 2001, hundreds of repatriating families settled in the Afghan Mena area of Jalalabad city. In 2007, the families decided to establish a school for the local population.
Haidar Shah, 57, the former principal of the school recalls: “In those days, it was only a school by name. We did not have any resources. It was open ground with no roof. We rented a storage facility nearby for $50 per month and stored our teaching materials there at night.”
But despite the limited resources, the school created educational opportunities for local children, who previously had to travel five kilometers to attend the nearest school. Currently, 1,407 boys and 1,043 girls study at Afghan Mena Elementary School, where 34 teachers (24 men and 8 women) are employed.
The school building was constructed in 2010 with support from the Ministry of Education’s Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). With EQUIP support, the 2,000 families of the Afghan Mena area have risen above many educational challenges. Their children now study in tidy classrooms close to home and under a proper roof.
Under EQUIP, schools across the country have been able to provide resources to their students with the assistance of Quality Enhancement Grants (QEGs). Afghan Mena Elementary School is one of 540 schools in Nangarhar Province that have benefited from QEGs since 2007. The school has received more than $70,000 in grants since then.
Based on school improvements plans, QEGs have been distributed to schools that use them for purchasing school supplies, laboratory equipment, and other materials that help strengthen the learning environment. So far, over 16,000 schools across Afghanistan have received QEGs totaling $37 million.
More resources for learning
EQUIP is implemented by the Ministry of Education and supported by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). EQUIP’s objective is to increase equitable access to quality basic education, especially for girls, through school grants, teacher training, and strengthened institutional capacity with support from communities and private providers.
Lal Gul Halimi, EQUIP supervisor in Nangarhar Province, says he is thrilled with the improvements to Afghan Mena Elementary School under the program. “The construction process took six months and EQUIP provided an amount of nearly $70,000 for the project,” he says. “Local residents also contributed more than $17,000 for the project.”
According to Lal Gul, EQUIP also provided two other separate aid packages for the school, of approximately $1,700 and $2,000 each.
“These assistance packages are dedicated to providing more resources for students and helping develop school infrastructure,” he says. “Currently the Afghan Mena Elementary School has eight teaching classes, four administrative rooms, a well-equipped laboratory and a library with 500 titles. Compared to earlier, these are enormous resources.”
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