According to UNDP’s Human Development Report 2015, Afghanistan ranks 171st out of 188 countries surveyed (UNDP, 2015). As of 2014, nearly two in three people in Afghanistan are below the age of 25, with almost half of the population below 15 years of age (UNFPA 2014). Across the country, illiteracy and the lack of education is identified as one of the biggest problem facing women and girls (Asia Foundation 2013). Sixty percent of the 4.2 million out-of-school children are girls (UNICEF 2011). This is the environment that Afghan children are growing up in.
In Afghanistan there is almost no early childhood education for orphans and children from poor families. Kindergartens are only available to wealthy families who can afford to enroll their children. For the majority of children who come from poorer families there are no cheaper options or government subsidised alternatives. As a result when they reach the schooling age the children of those families are already at an educational disadvantage, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
In response to this problem, MAMA worked with Mahboba’s Promise to create an Early Childhood Education Centre in the Panjshir Valley at Hope House. Similar to MAMA’s collaboration with Mahboba’s Promise at the Kabul Early Childhood Centre, it provides the necessary pre-school education for children aged 4-7years from within the local community. Orphans and the very poor will be the priority. There will also be a small number of places made available to fee paying students.
The children will have access to a safe-space and a supportive environment in which to socialise, explore, grow and excel. The centre will provide a curriculum that includes diverse activities such as music, stories, sports and also nutritional meals to supplement their home diets which are often insubstantial.
The primary objectives of the MAMA Early Childhood Centre in the Panjshir Valley are:
- To provide high quality early childhood education for orphans and disadvantaged children in the Panjshir province in order to give them a strong foundation for commencing formal education;
- To build self-confidence and resilience in children who have been traumatised by conflict, death of family members, poverty and the Afghan conflict; and
- To have the project become self-sustaining in the next 3 years through an increased number of fee paying students and encouraging the local community to take ownership of the centre and the objectives it has for child development.
Panjshir province has a relatively stable security situation compared to the rest of Afghanistan, with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police well established in the province. This enables development projects to proceed with limited threat of disruption.