Tag Archives: teaching

Pete Simms – Afghanistan – Children’s voices

1 Dec

I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. 

2014 has been a critical year for Afghanistan with elections and troop withdrawal characterising a change in the direction of the country. There is now a new President, one who promises to end the corruption that permeates so much of Afghan politics, and the national military have now taken over responsibility for security from NATO. But what does this change mean for the average person and what does it mean for organisations like Children in Crisis who are trying to bring the right to education to some of the most underprivileged children in the country?

The first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history was an incredible achievement. Democracy only works if people believe in it, and during the election thousands of Afghans defied the threats of the Taliban, the distance to the voting booth, and the corruption of the political system to cast their vote and have their voice heard.

The challenges to building a stable, peaceful nation are still enormous, but people are now demanding that they be heard, that their voice be listened to. This is a significant step along the path to meeting basic human rights and of building a pluralistic society that values the role of all.

Much of the focus on the election was on the involvement of women, and for somewhere that has systematically and structurally undermined the concept of gender equality, the 38% of voters who were women should be celebrated.

At Children in Crisis we believe that everyone’s voices should be heard and that a society should listen to its most vulnerable as much as its most powerful. I spend a lot of my time talking to the people we work with, listening to their stories and to their hopes for the future. I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. Adults can be cynical, sceptical of change and distrustful of those offering it, but children are not.

CBEC pupils 1

I recently spoke to a young girl called Sabera. She had moved to Kabul with her family five years earlier to escape the conflict that still continues in much of the country. Her family was extremely poor and, like most girls in Afghanistan, Sabera had never been to school before Children in Crisis opened a Community Based Education Centre (CBEC) near to her home. Her father is a day labourer and she and her brothers and sisters all work to make sure there is enough food every day.

When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she said she wants to be a teacher. She wants to help other children go to school. What impressed me so much about this 12 year old girl’s answer was how she immediately, unquestioningly, wanted to help others. Her hope and dream was to make sure other children receive their basic right to education.

When I asked Sabera about what she wanted for Afghanistan her answers were a mix of the deeply personal and the universal. She wanted a home of her own, an understandable dream for someone who lives in a temporary shelter and who craves a foundation, a structure to an otherwise temperamental existence. She wanted peace – more than anything she talked about security, about an end to her constant fear. She said she wanted people in Afghanistan to be friends with each other.

Afghanistan has certainly improved in the 13 years since the removal of the Taliban regime. However the decision to draw down the international military support and to reduce the humanitarian and development aid to the country is far too premature. The gains made in bringing quality education to the first ever generation of Afghan children should be celebrated, but while more than half of school-aged children are still denied access and are required to work to help feed their families there should be no thought of turning back.

Group of kids - 700 pixels wide

In one of our CBECs in Kabul I sat with a group of children enjoying the last few days of the autumn, the snow already visible on the line of mountains that snakes around the capital. Rafi told me he wanted to be a pilot, or a football player, and that he hoped that in the future Afghanistan would be like other countries. He listed off the names of the main international contributors – the US, Germany, the UK – these far away countries that he has heard so much about. He said he wanted the different ethnic groups to live together; a pertinent point for this divided country. Nazifa, a bright and precocious young girl who, in line with her dream of one day being a judge, said she wanted the new President to bring justice, to help poor people, and to build more hospitals.

two boys - 700 pixels wide

All of the children talked of their wish for the fighting to stop. They talked about ending the sounds of war – the bombs, the guns, the explosions. Sara wanted to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help her community. When I asked her what she wanted most of all, what she dreamed of, she said to end the violence against girls like her and against women like her mother.

As the troops are pulled out it is more important than ever to step up our work in Afghanistan. We cannot allow the situation to slip backwards. Incredible achievements have been made; people have started to imagine a future of optimism – we have a responsibility to try and make that a reality.

Children in Crisis is delighted to announce that all funds given by the British public between the 3rd September and the 2nd December 2014 will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government.

Your support of our work has never been more powerful or important.

 

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Bethan. Kabul. Tokyo.

5 Jul

“These are Kabul’s forgotten communities and I’m proud that our staff could find them even in the midst of winter.”

Bethan Williams, Programme Manager for Afghanistan, recently returned from visiting our sister office in Kabul and the projects that are run within some of the poorest and neglected areas of the city. With the future support of Afghanistan being discussed at the Tokyo Conference on the 8th of July, Bethan reflects on the dedication and commitment of our Afghan colleagues to supporting the forgotten communities of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan

Bethan Williams with the Children in Crisis team outside  Community Based Education Centre (CBEC) 2, Tani Kot, Kabul.

Last time I visited Afghanistan, Kabul was covered in a layer of thick snow in the midst of the coldest winter for 20 years. At that stage the education team were just starting the long process of finding accommodation for our new education centres. From the windows of the office the snow gave the city a magical feel but I was well aware of the effort being put in by the team heading out each day in the snow to canvass new areas to assess their suitability for new project, even more important than normal since these centres would be where we set up for a three-year project.

Afghanistan

The CBEC 2 building in Tani Kot, District 7, Kabul. The buildings are basic community buildings that are often in some of the more isolated areas of the city.

When I returned to Kabul last month to review the progress so far on our new projects, Kabul had returned to its normal sweaty dustbowl situation and the magical snow remained only on the very top of the huge mountains that cradle the city and make take-offs and landings interesting. As I set-off with our Country Director and Education Manager to visit the centres. I was a bit nervous to see where they would be, over the past three years the team have shown increasing dedication in where the centres are starting close to the main roads and once their confidence in the work and the need for education in more remote communities increased, moving deeper into the communities. My main worry that since the centres were established during the snowiest time, that from sheer lack of accessibility, we’d be back by the main roads.

Afghanistan

Some children arrive at the CBECs for accelerated learning classes not being able to read or write. In one year they will have progressed through the equivalent of 2 years of primary education.

It seems my concerns were completely unfounded, at the first centre the Country Director told me we were going to take the long way around so that I could drive the way the teachers walk each morning, 25 minutes after leaving the main road we arrived at the centre. Similarly at the second centre, we climbed up and up the side of one of the mountains and reached the centre right at the top. From up there, the teachers proudly pointed out all the houses where the children walked from. I asked them about their commute and the teachers told me, the community are happy to have us here so we’re happy to be here. Happy seems to be an understatement, even though this is part of a capital city of a country that has received huge amounts of aid, the community have never worked with an NGO before, these are Kabul’s forgotten communities and I’m proud that our staff could find them even in the midst of winter. As I squeezed myself onto the central line this morning I thought about the Children in Crisis teachers setting out on their daily commute up a mountain and once again felt grateful for the commitment and dedication of my Afghan colleagues.

You can read more about the upcoming Tokyo Conference on the 8th July on the DFID website here. We will also be following the event on twitter so please follow us @childrencrisis and #Tokyo4Afghans and re-tweet to your followers.

Kabul. A new arrival.

2 Apr
Crystal Stewart, has just recently taken on the role of Project Manager for our social worker training work in Afghanistan. Her previous role was with War Child Holland, working as a program advisor in the occupied Palestinian territories and helping children in conflict with the law.
  
Kabul is a beautiful, contrasting place. We asked Crystal to give us her first impressions of the city, its people and her first month in a new job.
 
This is what she wrote: 
 
Crystal, social worker advisor for Children in Crisis in Kabul, Afghanistan

Photo - Crystal Stewart in Children in Crisis Kabul office

On my flight into Kabul, squished between two very large military guys, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous about what was to come.  Being one of the seven girls on a flight of around 150 people is a rather intimidating experience. As we approached Kabul, spectacular views of enormous snowcapped mountains lined the sky.  Leaning over the snoring military man to look out the window, I felt my heart beating a little faster.  Still to this day, I’m not sure if it was the breathtaking views or the fact that it was all becoming a reality that caused my body to react in that way.

A snowy Kabul awaited me - the roof of the office with white mountains in the distance.

For years, the Afghan children have captured my heart.  The media portrays the conflict in so many different ways but I always knew there was something more.  As soon as I arrived at the Children in Crisis office and met my new colleagues, all of my preconceived fears were tossed out the window.  They were incredibly kind, welcoming, humble, respectful and extremely dedicated to rebuilding their war-torn country.  I was immediately inspired and ready to contribute in any way possible.

Over the next couple of weeks, I visited the public orphanages, juvenile rehabilitation centres, community-based education centres, met with government leaders, other NGOs and international agencies.  I heard one heartbreaking story after the next but somehow there was always a ray of hope in every story.  I had the opportunity to meet two boys in the orphanage that, through the help of social workers, caregivers, Children in Crisis staff and other NGOs, have managed to recover from life-threatening conditions.  This showed me that, despite the incredibly challenging circumstances children face in this country, things can change.

Camera shy at Chelsetoon. A community based education centre run in a remote community on the outskirts of Kabul.

The Social Work Capacity Development Project has basically built an entire child protection system from practically nothing.  The government now has social workers, trained by Children in Crisis and able to respond to cases of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.  It is a truly impressive accomplishment especially in one of the harshest places in the world for children to grow up.  Of course, systems take time to develop and there is still a lot of work to be done.  The team here is committed to strengthening the systems and raising awareness about child rights and child protection.

Children on a roadside in Kabul, Afghanistan

Children at a roadside in Kabul

Now the snow has lifted, the newness has worn away, the sun is coming out making even more apparent the filth, poverty, corruption and power struggles that exist in this country.  But in my opinion, one thing will never change, the cheerful spirit of the Afghan children.  Their strength and courage can never be altered no matter what happens.  I have hope that their future is slowly changing.

We’ve recently updated our website, giving more information about the social worker training project that Crystal is working on. Read more.