Spotlight on The Asia Foundation – Supporting Education for Afghans

As part of its mission to improve lives across the diverse regions of a dynamic and rapidly developing Asia, The Asia Foundation works hard to improve the quality of local education and expand access to educational opportunities in all areas where it operates. In Afghanistan, The Asia Foundation works closely with local NGO partners, as well as all levels of the formal education system, to strengthen all areas of Afghanistan’s education system, including student enrolment and achievement, teaching quality, curriculum development, and school infrastructure.

The educational programs supported by The Asia Foundation—all of which are carefully aligned with the strategies and priorities of Afghanistan’s ministries of Education and Higher Education—focus on boosting primary school literacy, improving teacher training, facilitating civil society and government agency participation in the educational sector, as well as developing employment-oriented educational initiatives. Read on to learn more about some of The Asia Foundation’s most recent work in the world of Afghan education.

Programs to enhance numeracy and literacy skills

school childrenBooks for Asia—Established nearly 15 years ago, the foundation’s Books for Asia program has delivered millions of books and educational materials to provincial schools, universities, public libraries, NGOs, and government ministries in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces. One of the Books for Asia program’s biggest achievements in Afghanistan has been the distribution of a special collection of traditional Afghan folktales to schools across the country. Published by Hoopee Books, the collection was written in English, Pashto, and Dari. Since 2012, more than 1.2 million of these books have been donated to nearly 600 schools.

Primary school programs—Children who learn literacy and numeracy skills at a young age are much more likely to go on to pursue higher education. This is the reason why The Asia Foundation supports a number of local organizations, such as the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU) and the IT company Liwal, Ltd., in building a strong culture of reading for primary school children in Afghanistan. Through initiatives such as increased library access and the publication of easy-to-read books, these partners are working to make reading easy and fun for young Afghan students, as well as their parents and adult family members. Liwal, Ltd. is also developing an innovative new mobile app for primary school literacy in collaboration with The Asia Foundation. The app, which will initially be available to 2,000 Kabul children from grades one to three, will help them to read books in Dari and Pashto.

Libraries—The Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU), the only library in Afghanistan to house a comprehensive collection of research materials, has been visited by over 61,000 users since 2015. In addition to providing technical support and fiduciary oversight to ACKU, The Asia Foundation supports the Center’s Afghanistan Box Library Extension program (ABLE). Created in an effort to help provide remote communities with much-needed educational materials, ABLE creates new “box libraries” (which are basically conveniently located depositories of books) in isolated areas, and expands the collections of existing libraries. In the past year alone, 17 new box libraries have been created and more than 20,000 books and learning materials have been sent to libraries.

Programs for curriculum development

Given the significant percentage of students who do not pass the math and science sections of Afghanistan’s national public university entrance exam, known as the Kankor exam, it is clear that the math and science curriculum in Afghanistan’s public school system is in need of improvement. To this end, The Asia Foundation has formed a close partnership with the General Directorate of Science and Education Technology, the Ministry of Education department that oversees both curriculum development and teacher training.

Together with the Directorate, The Asia Foundation is supporting the training of 900 math and science teachers, as well as 65 lab technicians, in Badakhshan, Kandahar, and Khost. The goal is not only to create a more relevant and comprehensive curriculum, but to ensure that the teachers themselves are more comfortable with the material and thus better able to support their students. Up-to-date equipment can also make a big difference in students’ learning experience. The Asia Foundation has helped to distribute 300 pieces of laboratory equipment to 54 of those schools involved in the curriculum development program.

Programs for organizational capacity building

While Afghan-led programming makes the most sense for an effective Afghan school system, many educational organizations that would normally take the lead in this area lack the capacity, resources, or organizational governance to do so. To help address this discrepancy, The Asia Foundation conducts an organizational capacity development assessment—a participatory tool that provides a complete overview of an organization—for each of its local education partners in order to evaluate organizational stability and sustainability. When deficiencies or challenges are identified, the foundation provides training sessions to help the organization bridge the gap. Sessions can cover topics such as human resources, financial sustainability, strategic planning, and finance and administration. The overall goal is to help local organizations build their own effective governance structures and reduce dependence on funding from international donors.

 

Restoring Hope: How a Power Plant Can Boost the Future

Three decades of conflict have devastated the economy of Afghanistan. Marketplaces and infrastructure have crumbled, while employment opportunities have all but disappeared. The entire nation is struggling to rebuild.

In the aftermath of war, there is much to do. People need assistance finding safe, habitable places to live, not to mention jobs and a marketplace that offers food, clothing, and more. While outside nations have rushed to help, perhaps the largest (and most efficient) means of help must come from within. Few, however, have both the ability and the initiative to act. Fortunately, Dr. Ehsan Bayat is both able and motivated to aid the war-torn nation. For Dr. Bayat, this is more than just a terrible situation; it is an opportunity to act. Harnessing the resources of the Bayat Foundation, he strives to assist the most at-risk citizens of Afghanistan and bring hope to the nation.

The Bayat Foundation

The focus of the Bayat Foundation is to bring hope and healing to the neediest members of Afghanistan society. By providing for their basic necessities, the foundation can offer hope where there was none, and inspire a rising generation to build a brighter future for the nation. A consortium of donors has teamed up to find ways to meet the most elemental of needs within the country. They work primarily with women and children, those who face an uncertain future and would otherwise have little opportunity to improve their lives.

bayatfoundationlogoThousands of women benefit from the maternity care programs offered by the Bayat Foundation, which has constructed prenatal and postnatal care centers in eight provinces throughout the country. Women receive free pre-and post-natal care, as well as instruction in baby care. Thus, the mortality rate of women and children in Afghanistan has decreased, and the health of mothers and infants has dramatically improved.

Citizens have likewise benefited from the foundation’s well-water initiatives, which make clean water readily available for use in areas where there is no potable or running water. With the building of wells, clean water can be accessed for cooking, drinking, bathing, and other uses, improving health and preventing the spread of disease.

Family sponsorship programs support entire family groups, providing much-needed funds and supplies to cover necessities. As a result, children do not have to beg in the streets, so they have the opportunity to attend school. Additionally, families receive blankets, food, and clothing during the winter months, assistance that is particularly important in the most remote provinces.

The Bayat Foundation and Starkey Hearing Foundation Mission to the Dominican Republic

Original article can be seen at Afghan-Wireless.com 

Bringing Health, Healing and Hope to the neediest of our fellow Afghans, were the three powerful and heartfelt reasons which inspired my family and I to establish The Bayat Foundation in 2006. Last month, from April 18th to April 20th, The Bayat Foundation, in partnership with with our friends at The Starkey Hearing Foundation (www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org), was privileged to join a three day medical mission which brought Hope, Healing—and the gift of Hearing—to the people of the Dominican Republic.

In Afghanistan, both of our organizations have worked together, side by side, on two hearing care missions which have restored the hearing of 2,479 Afghans. I was determined that our contribution to this newest hearing care mission would demonstrate just how much we appreciated their work in Afghanistan—and our support of Starkey’s commitment to help people in need everywhere. So, my daughter Leah and I joined the group of Bayat Foundation volunteers who assisted the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s team of seasoned, strong and exceptional hearing health specialists.

Our hearing care mission took place in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros, the two largest cities in the Dominican Republic. Our combined Bayat-Starkey hearing care team worked with unyielding determination to help every person who came to the mobile hearing care stations, seeking a cure for their deafness or hearing loss.

Every patient we worked with represented the beautiful and diverse history of the Dominican Republic, and embodied a range of ages—from one year to 115 (!) years old. Approximately 29% of the people we assisted had suffered hearing loss at birth, while over one-third of our patients didn’t know the reasons for their hearing loss.

Our combined Bayat-Starkey hearing care team was able to provide the gift of hearing to 1,200 people living in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros. Leah and I felt happy—and humbled—that our efforts had helped so many people hear—many, for the first time in their lives.

Yet, despite the progress we were able to make, everyone involved with the hearing care mission realized that there are millions of people around the world who need the kind of exceptional hearing medical care that the Starkey Hearing Foundation provides—and the Bayat Foundation is honored to support. More than 360 million people throughout the world are affected by deafness or hearing loss. And this sad, staggering and sobering statistic includes thousands of our fellow Afghans.

In late 2016, The Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation will join together and launch our third annual Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission. Last year, our Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission restored the hearing of 1,544 children and adults living in Kabul, Herat and Balkh Provinces. This year, The Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, working together, are focused on one goal: we are determined to provide Hearing—and Hope for a better life—to every person who seeks our assistance, here in Afghanistan, and around the world.

Until next time,

Ehsan

Dr. Ehsanollah Bayat

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Founder and CEO, Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC)Founder and CEO, Ariana Television and Radio (ATN)
Founder, Bayat Foundation

5 Organizations Helping to Educate the Next Generation in Afghanistan

Over three decades of conflict have seriously hampered the educational prospects of Afghanistan’s children. Here is a quick look at five dedicated philanthropic organizations that are working to ensure a better future for the country’s next generation of social, political, and business leaders.

 

The Bayat Foundation

The Bayat Foundation was created in 2006 to assist those Afghans most in need: children, women, widows, refugees, and orphans, as well as people living in poor communities without access to basic infrastructure. The organization particularly believes it is necessary to educate the children who will play a key role in helping the country recover from decades of conflict. In the years since its establishment, the Bayat Foundation has built, refurbished, and/or outfitted with supplies the Faryab Orphanage and Learning Center, the Tahya Maskan Orphanage and Learning Center, the Chill Dokhtaran School, and the Ayenda Learning Center and Orphanage. These centers educate nearly 2,000 young students.

The Bayat Foundation has also sought to encourage camaraderie and team spirit by creating sporting complexes, sponsoring sporting competitions, and funding training for Afghanistan’s first Olympic medalist.

 

Afghans4Tomorrow

Afghan childrenAfghans4Tomorrow has also worked to improve the quality and availability of education for children in Afghanistan. The organization succeeded in creating a program for young girls at the Sheikh Yassin School in Wardak Province, which now offers a program for boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon. A4T raised money to pay instructors’ salaries and to upgrade classrooms.

A4T also funded and built Tomorrow’s Afghans Private School in 2004; by 2014, more than 300 students were attending the school. In addition, the school has been able to administer new teacher and student evaluations to improve the quality of education all around, and has created new science programs, including a student science fair. In December 2014, the first group of 12th graders graduated from the school.

 

Lamia Afghan Foundation

Lamia Afghan Foundation most recently funded and created a tent school for over 500 children living in a Kabul refugee camp. This followed a similarly successful tent school created in a refugee camp in Jalalabad. The organization has also worked to build or reconstruct six schools that educate more than 2,000 children in the communities of Chelton Village in Kabul, Sayd Khel, and Lakan Khel in Pule Charki. Additionally, Lamia Afghan Foundation facilitated the distribution of 12,000 books to high schools in Jalalabad to assist older students in reading and writing skills and creative thinking.

Lamia Afghan Foundation has also been part of a coordinated effort to bring state-of-the-art prosthetics to children who were maimed and injured in the conflict. Through this initiative, the foundation has helped more than 200 children walk again.

 

War Child International

War Child International is a group of independent humanitarian organizations that work together to assist child victims of war with relief aid, medical attention, and education. To date, the group has set up more than 25 kindergartens and early childhood development centers to give young children a preschool education and their mothers a community.

WCI has also developed resource centers for children forced to work on the street to support their families. These centers provide free education and support to help them return to school, as well as business skills training for older youth to improve their job opportunities.

War Child also coordinated with the Afghanistan Educational Children’s Circus to help form and promote children’s shuras, a traditional Afghan form of democracy. These youth groups meet after school to discuss the issues of education, medical aid, and child labor. In March 2015, the first children’s shura presented a discussion at the Afghanistan Ministry of Culture for five parliamentary members. These officials made a commitment to hear and act on the issues raised by the children’s shura, promising to amplify their calls for a better future for the country’s children.

 

Afghan Connection

Afghan Connection was founded by Dr. Sarah Fane in 2002 to provide medical support, equipment, and vaccinations for women and children suffering in the ongoing war. More than a decade later, their efforts focus on education to achieve the sustainable reconstruction of northeastern Afghanistan.

The foundation has received enough donations to build 42 schools that educate over 50,000 children. Each school has several classrooms and a resource center for a computer room, library, meeting room, and science center. Afghan Connection has also funded and encouraged sports programs for girls and boys, in order to encourage teamwork and competition.

The organization operates with the goal of building at least two schools each year. While its early efforts focused on constructing schools over a large geographical area, its more recent efforts are concentrated on the smaller, rural region of Worsaj. Although illiteracy is high in this area, parents are eager for their children to receive the education they did not.

Protecting the Future of Afghan Healthcare Development

The Bayat Foundation is deeply invested in the future of Afghanistan. To create more opportunity for the Afghan people, the foundation spearheads projects in a number of different areas, one of the most critical of which remains healthcare. In recent months, the Bayat Foundation has undertaken initiatives to address hearing loss, improve access to maternity care, and strengthen dentist training.

Over the past few years, the Afghan government has made great strides toward improving the healthcare system in Afghanistan. In the early 2000s, access to medical care was extremely limited, especially in rural areas. Most of the healthcare was provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked in an uncoordinated and inconsistent manner. Understanding that healthcare is vital to the future development of the nation, the government partnered with several organizations to raise money to build a more robust system.

Financial support from the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) helped launch the Strengthening Health Activities for the Rural Poor project. In addition, the World Bank approved a major grant for the Afghan government through the International Development Association (IDA) to create the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition program, which expands access to services in 22 of the 34 Afghan provinces.

 

The Growing Need for More Healthcare-Focused Philanthropy

Blood pressure monitorEven with government and international organizations working to expand services to Afghans in need, there is still much to do. In 2002, Afghanistan had only about 500 healthcare facilities in the entire country. Now, more than 2,280 exist. In addition, more than half of all Afghan people live within an hour of a clinic. At the same time, however, access to specialized care remains scarce, and the few Afghans who can afford to pay out of pocket to travel abroad for such services, do so.

The future of healthcare in the nation is jeopardized by the real possibility of reduced aid in the years to come. About 80 percent of funding for Afghan Public Health Ministry comes from international donors, and funding has already dropped in the past year as aid organizations scale back their operations.

While hospitals in many areas of Afghanistan appear modern and provide a high level of care, they continue to struggle with outdated or even broken equipment, and they are severely understaffed. The healthcare system may need to struggle to keep hospitals open instead of focusing resources on expanding access if sources of funding become scarce.

 

Domestic Support for the Afghan Healthcare System

Continued development of healthcare centers in Afghanistan depends on increased domestic healthcare philanthropy. One Afghan organization that is trying to improve the country’s health system is Afghan Health and Development Services (AHDS). Founded in 1990, this nonprofit, nonpolitical, and non-governmental organization takes a proactive approach to longtime problems and emphasizes empowerment of the Afghan community to help people make better decisions and become more involved with the future of their nation.

To improve healthcare from multiple angles, AHDS is working to expand access to, as well as the quality of, the Afghan healthcare system. In Urozgan, AHDS has created mobile health teams, established service centers at schools, and implemented community-based nutrition education to reduce instances of severe acute malnutrition. In Kandahar, AHDS projects administered vaccinations and provided continuing training for medical facility personnel. In addition, 18 healthcare facilities instituted quality assurance metrics. As a result of these actions, the province reported a decreased incidence of disease, including no new cases of polio.

AHDS has focused much of its efforts on maintaining maternal health and reducing the mortality and morbidity rates of newborns. Through the construction of new and better facilities, the organization has helped lower these figures over the past decade.

One facility the organization created is the Aino Birth Center, which piloted a unique performance-based financing system that emphasizes sustainability of healthcare gains. In remote areas, AHDS offered women free reproductive healthcare services. It also reduced maternal morbidity rates through its reproductive health task force.

AHDS also addresses malnutrition, especially in the first two years of life. The group’s Public Nutrition Policy and Strategy, in effect between 2009 and 2013, did much to raise community awareness about the risks of malnutrition and deliver information about best feeding practices for young children. In the case of acute malnutrition, direct case management helped ensure the best outcomes for affected children.