What if the reason you learned to read, write, do arithmetic, and solve complex equations was not entirely self-centered? What if there were another purpose to your education? For the students of the lower-level literacy program in Afghanistan (Sewad Amausi), there is. They share a common belief that their schooling is not just for themselves, but for their children. These women are hungry for knowledge, but they look to our literacy programs to improve the lives of future generations.
“I decided to attend the literacy course in order to become a good mother and a good wife in the future” said Shabana, a Sewad Amausi student, age 16. A chorus of voices chimed in.
“If I become literate,” said Nooria Toli, age 19, “I will be able to help my sisters in their lessons.”
“It will really help me, [to know better] how to treat my family and how to look after my children,” said Sakhida Amini, age 18.
Malalai Sadat is 28 years old and married. She does not have children but is looking forward to how her literacy will help her be a better mother someday. “It will help me in reading story books to my children—not only story books, but also newspapers and magazines. And will inform me of what is going on in the world.”
Many women and girls also consider the impact they can make on the community: “The Sewad Amausi course will help me convince others to attend school and continue their own educations,” said Shakila Taghan, age 16.
Despite the social, political, and cultural hurdles these women face, they recognize the importance of being literate, and keenly desire the chance to attend classes. But the majority of these young women are unable to continue their education beyond Barakat’s lower-literacy course, due to social circumstances that work against them. As one girl laments, “I mentioned that I want to continue studying after this literacy course, but my brothers will not let me.” And others face economic barriers. When asked why she does not continue her studies beyond Sewad Amausi, Nooria replied that her family simply can’t afford it.
Against these odds, there are growing numbers of participants in Barakat’s literacy programs. In 2011, there were 601 students enrolled in Sewad Amausi, and 218 students enrolled in Sewad Hayat, Barakat’s higher-level literacy program. This demonstrates that more than one third of Barakat’s beginning students successfully take their education to the next level. But no matter when their time in the classroom ends, their story continues through the legacy they create for future generations.