Dr. Sakena Yacoobi has been educating Afghan women for most of her life and nothing has stopped her yet – not the Taliban, not the American-military intervention, and certainly not the pressure created by the public demand for her services.
Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 with a single $20,000 grant to build two schools for refugee Afghan girls living across the border in Peshawar, Pakistan. Under Taliban rule, AIL organized and operated a network of 80 underground schools that educated 3,000 girls across the country – an illegal and dangerous operation for everyone involved.
Now, AIL operates in the open and has impacted over 8 million Afghans through their schools, teacher training, nurse training, health education, and healthcare services. Yacoobi attributes AIL’s success in such a tumultuous region to its close ties with the community; but, that support doesn’t come without obligations.
“We work closely with our communities,” said Yacoobi, Executive Director of AIL. “Because of this strong bond we have, when they request a service, we really must provide it for them.”
Currently, the community is requesting more teacher training programs. Give2Asia has been sponsoring AIL’s teacher training since 2006 in partnership with multiple donors who wish to see AIL’s work succeed. Teacher training from AIL benefits thousands of teachers each year and far surpasses government-provided teacher training in requirements, length, and methodology. Whereas government-trained teachers in a rural village may have completed six or nine years of school, AIL requires they have completed all 12. AIL also puts specific emphasis on critical thinking, lesson planning, curriculum creation, classroom control and pedagogy – new concepts for many of Afghanistan’s 260,000 teachers.
“The situation in Afghanistan, day by day, is getting worse. I personally don’t want to concentrate on this. But, civil society is improving. Everyone is learning. They are thirsty for knowledge.”
- Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
So popular and effective are its teachers that AIL has trouble holding onto them. As soon as teachers are finished with AIL training, they are recruited by the Afghan government and non-governmental organizations that can often pay three times what AIL is able to offer.
Teachers are not the only ones being recruited away from AIL. Dr. Yacoobi herself has been considered for governmental positions in the past, as Minister of Education and Minister of Women’s Affairs.
She hopes that in the next few years AIL will build self-sufficient programs and move away from donor funding. One of AIL’s four health clinics is already paying its own staff salaries and many of AIL’s 41 schools are earning money by educating students who can afford tuition alongside those who cannot. In the meantime, AIL will continue to add to the 18,000 teachers it has already trained.
“The situation in Afghanistan, day by day, is getting worse. I personally don’t want to concentrate on this,” said Yacoobi. “But, civil society is improving. Everyone is learning. They are thirsty for knowledge.”
Give2Asia will continue to support the work of Dr. Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning by funding teacher training, nurse training, and health services through multiple donor-advised funds. Give2Asia is proud to have a partner in the long-term development of Afghanistan’s civil society.
“People want to measure impact quickly, right now,” said Yacoobi. “If you really want an impact, you have to impact individuals. The individual makes the nation.”
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Click here to visit AIL’s fund at Give2Asia.