RESTORING HOPE IN AFGHANISTAN THROUGH EDUCATION

Nearly three years after the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, the children of the troubled nation are embroiled in an education crisis. In response, SAT-7’s Persian channel is making a Dari-language educational TV program to help Afghan children learn to read and write, giving them “hope for the future”.

NO SCHOOL, NO HOPE?

“Unfortunately, there are so many children in Afghanistan who do not have access to education in schools,” says Nader Taghizadeh, Sun of Hope’s director.

An estimated 3.7 million children are out of school in Afghanistan,[1] with the majority unable to use the internet as an alternative learning resource, as almost 80% of Afghans do not have access to it.[2] The situation is particularly dire for girls, since shortly after seizing control of the country the Taliban banned them from attending secondary school.

“If only I had wings,” Afsoon*, a woman from Afghanistan, told SAT-7. “I would fly to a place where I would be allowed to go to school and study, because here in Afghanistan I am not allowed to study.”

Literacy rates in the country were low even before the Taliban returned. The most recent statistics available for Afghanistan (2021) showed that only 37% of adults – just 23% of women[3] – and 56% of youth[4] were literate. Those numbers seem likely to go down further, at least for women and girls.

Armineh*, a teenage girl from Afghanistan, wrote an open letter to SAT-7 shortly after the Taliban takeover, saying that it “was the end of my dreams”. She continued, “When I consider the limitations that will be put in place by the new regime, I think perhaps there is no future for me. Because under this new regime, girls and women will not receive equal rights and women will not have their proper place in society.” Sadly, Armineh was right, and her worst fears have been confirmed in the last three years of Taliban rule.

Widespread poverty in Afghanistan is also affecting access to education, as desperate families are forced to send their children into work or early marriage. Around 1.6 million Afghan children – some as young as six – are trapped in child labour,[5] while an estimated 28 per cent of Afghan girls are married before the age of 18.[6]

Nader knows that offering education to young Afghan viewers is an exercise in restoring hope. “We want our viewers to develop their skills, like critical thinking abilities, and be in a position to engage with the rest of the world,” he comments. “This will give them hope for the future.”

FROM THE ALPHABET TO THE GOSPEL

SAT-7 PARS’ new education program, Sun of Hope, will be presented by a schoolteacher in Dari – the variety of Persian widely spoken in Afghanistan – and focus primarily on basic literacy skills, beginning with the alphabet. To enhance the learning of core elements of reading and writing, each episode will contain practical lessons and homework, with accompanying graphics and photos. Filming is due to start in the summer.

It is never too late to start learning. The 30-minute episodes may be primarily aimed at 5-7-year-olds, but they could also benefit older children and even adults who were not able to attend school. For women and girls in Afghanistan – many of whom are confined to the home due to restrictions placed on them by the Taliban – this program could give them a unique opportunity to become literate, a crucial life skill that may open doors for them in the future.

While this will be the first educational TV program SAT-7 has produced in Dari, the broadcaster has plenty of experience of making similar programs in Arabic. My School was launched in 2015 in response to the war in Syria, and SAT-7 went on to make and broadcast over 400 episodes covering the region’s curriculum in the core subjects of mathematics, Arabic, English, science, and French. Although the show wrapped up its fifth and final season last year, episodes remain available on SAT-7 PLUS, our free online streaming platform.

SAT-7’s education programs are giving young people in the MENA opportunities to learn and develop important life skills, which will improve their prospects in the future. But they also potentially offer something even deeper: the chance to encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nader explains, “I hope that through an educational program broadcast on satellite television, we can help educate children who cannot read or write, so that eventually they can also engage with the Good News of the Gospel.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

 

[1] https://www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education

[2] The World Bank Individuals using the Internet (% of population) – Middle East & North Africa | Data (worldbank.org)

[3] Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above) – Afghanistan | Data (worldbank.org)

[4] Literacy rate, youth total (% of people ages 15-24) – Afghanistan | Data (worldbank.org)

[5] https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/05/1136797

[6] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/girls-increasingly-risk-child-marriage-afghanistan

[social_warfare] Latest news