Many years of war and conflict in Afghanistan has created thousands of widows and orphans. Across the country, illiteracy and the lack of education is identified as one of the biggest problems facing women and children. Afghanistan still has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world with about nine million illiterate adults, according to the Afghan Ministry of Education (UNAMA 2013). Sixty percent of the 4.2 million out-of-school children are girls (UNICEF 2011).
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 enrol 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. The basic building blocks of literacy and numeracy are missing
Children in the formative years need access to stimulating learning for optimal brain development and character formation. Many young children, without access to a safe schooling environment, currently stay at home or wander the streets unsupervised.
In response to this problem, MAMA worked with Mahboba’s Promise to create an Early Childhood Education Centre at Kabul Hope House. 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 Kabul are:
- To provide high quality early childhood education for orphans and disadvantaged children to give them a head-start for school. Giving them every advantage for educational success so that they may break the cycle of poverty later in life;
- To build self-confidence and resilience in children who have been traumatised by conflict, death of family members, and/or poverty. In some cases the children have also suffered exploitation and abuse. Teachers will be trained in modern classroom techniques;
- Teacher training will empower teachers with the skills necessary to promote gender equality within the class; and
- Through the provision of childcare, this project will enable young widows and socio economically disadvantaged mothers to pursue work and income that could raise the quality of life for their family.