A Look at the Amazing Online Library Helping Afghan Teachers

The most important investment that can be made in Afghanistan’s future is in teaching and learning. That’s the philosophy behind Darakht-e Danesh: a free and accessible online library of resources for Afghan educators that was launched in 2013. Read on to learn more about this amazing educational initiative that is helping transform the work of teachers all across Afghanistan.


What is the Darakht-e Danesh library?

Darakht-e Danesh libraryIn Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages, “Darakht-e danesh” means “knowledge tree,” and that’s exactly what this project aims to be. The Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Educators is a unique repository of open educational resources geared toward anyone involved in furthering and improving education in Afghanistan, from teachers and teacher trainers to administrative staff and literacy workers. All kinds of open-source resources and materials suitable for use in Afghan classrooms are available through the library, including lesson plans, pedagogical tools, workbooks and exercises, experiments, reading texts, and curricula. Furthermore, to make the library as accessible and useful as possible for the Afghans who need it most, resources are available in both Dari and Pashto, as well as English.


Why is the Darakht-e Danesh library needed?

There have been huge advances in education in Afghanistan since 2001. Millions of children are back in school, new teacher training colleges are opening, and a reformed curriculum has been implemented nationwide. All of this progress has occurred under the umbrella of the National Education Strategy for Afghanistan, which was created by the government of Afghanistan in collaboration with a number of development partners, and which outlines educational policy objectives and initiatives for strengthening Afghanistan’s schools.

But for all these improvements, significant challenges still remain, and one of the biggest is a discouraging lack of resources. Few schools have amenities like libraries or science labs, a majority of students don’t have access to (or can’t afford) textbooks, and there is little material provided to teachers to help them cover the curriculum. In addition, when quality educational resources are obtainable, they are rarely available in Dari, Pashto, or other local languages. As for the teachers themselves, many educators in Afghanistan have no formal teacher training, nor any post-secondary education, though many organizations are presently working to change this.

The idea behind the Darakht-e Danesh library, therefore, is to provide much-needed resources and support to teachers—after all, investing in teachers is one of the best ways to invest in students. The aim of Darakht-e Danesh is to increase access to quality resources in local languages for Afghan educators, through an easy to use, centralized system. Another important goal is to encourage teachers to explore and consult a wide variety of resources in their educational practice, adapt available tools to their own situations, and share their own resources with fellow teachers around the country.


How does the Darakht-e Danesh library work?

To use the Darakht-e Danesh library, you must first sign up via the library’s simple, online registration form. Once registered, all you need is an Internet connection to freely browse, download, and use any of the resources in the online collection. For example, teacher educators can download resources from the site to use in teacher training colleges, while teachers can browse and print out lesson plans for their classrooms or workbooks for their own professional development activities. All resources are fully open source, and can all be freely copied and distributed. In addition, as the Darakht-e Danesh library operates on the principle of sharing, users are strongly encouraged to add to the online repository by uploading their own tools and resources.

At present, the Darakht-e Danesh collection boasts resources across a broad range of categories. Teachers can find educational information on subjects such as applied sciences, life sciences, mathematics, and language arts.


How can I support the Darakht-e Danesh library?

There are a number of important ways for people within and beyond Afghanistan to support the Darakht-e Danesh online library. These include:

Sharing resources—As mentioned above, helping expand the collection of Darakht-e Danesh is one of the best ways to support the project. Afghan teachers are encouraged to share Dari or Pashto digitized resources that they use in their own classrooms: typed lesson plans, tests, activities, games, experiments, or any other teaching resources that have proved helpful are all good additions to the online repository. Original ideas or those learned from speaking to or watching other teachers are welcome! The idea behind such resource sharing is to multiply the impact by allowing the resources to be used in many different classrooms at the same time.

Translation—The more local languages that educational resources are available in, the more accessible and the more useful they will be to all Afghans. Bilingual educators or volunteers, particularly Pashto speakers, are eagerly sought by the Darakht-e Danesh team to grow the collection by translating existing materials.

Get to Know the ARTF with These 4 Important Questions

The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) is one of the most important funding entities supporting the ongoing rebuilding and development process in Afghanistan. Learn more about this critical organization with the following four frequently asked questions:


  1. What is the ARTF?

ARTFlogoEstablished in 2002, the ARTF is a multidonor trust fund that is managed by the World Bank and currently supported by 34 international donors. Since 2016, these donors have contributed more than US$9 billion for reconstruction projects and service delivery programs all across Afghanistan. The ARTF is the most important multidonor mechanism for nonsecurity, on-budget support in Afghanistan, and it is by far the preferred vehicle for pooled international funding. Its centrally administered structure allows for the well-coordinated and coherent channeling of funds, provides the Government of Afghanistan with funding predictability, and offers excellent transparency and high accountability for its donors, along with low overhead and transaction costs.



  1. How is the ARTF managed and governed?

There are three tiers of governance within the ARTF. Combined with three additional working groups, this management framework is both sound and flexible, allowing the ARTF to quickly and consistently adapt to changing circumstances and development priorities. The three-tiered governance framework includes the following entities:

The ARTF Steering Committee—This committee sets the strategic direction for the ARTF at quarterly meetings chaired by the World Bank and the Afghan Minister of Finance. Members of the committee are all either ARTF donors or representatives from the World Bank and the Afghan Ministry of Finance. To ensure transparency, the Steering Committee publicly posts full notes of its meetings on the ARTF website.

The ARTF Management Committee—The Management Committee is responsible for implementing the vision and direction set by the Steering Committee. This includes reviewing and approving funding proposals, reviewing ARTF finances, and making recommendations on ARTF management. Members of the Management Committee include the Afghan Ministry of Finance, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank, with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan taking part as an observer.

The ARTF Administrator—The World Bank serves as the Administrator for the ARTF. As such, it is responsible for monitoring and reporting on all aspects of ARTF performance. In particular, the World Bank ensures that the allocation of funds takes place in accordance with the Financing Strategy set and agreed upon by donors and the Government of Afghanistan, and in line with established fiduciary standards and performance measures.

The working groups that support the three tiers of governance are the Incentive Program Working Group, a donor group that works to set policy benchmarks for the ARTF with the Government of Afghanistan; the Strategy Group, which reviews the Financing Strategy and its implementation; and the Gender Working Group.


  1. How is the ARTF aligned with government priorities?

Working and collaborating closely with the Government of Afghanistan is a key priority for the ARTF; likewise, the government’s relationship with the ARTF is one of its most valued partnerships. Unlike some donor agencies that never give local governments the opportunity to work with funding directly, the ARTF channels all funds through government systems, and all projects are implemented by ministries and government agencies.

Naturally, such a close relationship means that ARTF’s work is closely aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy outlined by the government. In 2010, the government established 22 National Priority Programs (NPPs) and reached an agreement with the ARTF that a minimum of 80% of donor assistance would go towards supporting these priorities. This has proved to be the most effective way for the international community to support Afghanistan’s own development goals. To date, the ARTF has been an instrumental player in many of Afghanistan’s biggest development achievements.

Beyond questions of funding, the ARTF is also a helpful resource for the Government of Afghanistan in that it provides the government with an important platform for dialogue around key policy reforms.



  1. How are ARTF funds allocated?

There are two different “windows” through which ARTF funds are allocated. The first is the Recurrent Cost window: under this funding avenue, the government receives an annual reimbursement for a predetermined portion of eligible and non-security-related operating expenditure. This recurrent cost funding is an important element of Afghanistan’s fiscal sustainability; while the government is progressively improving its own revenue base through activities like customs and taxation, it is not yet able to fully support its recurrent expenditures with domestic revenues alone. ARTF Recurrent Cost window funding helps provide consistency and stability as the government works to improve its own revenue collection processes. To date, nearly 75% of recurrent costs have fallen into the category of payroll expenses, including wages for teachers and health workers.

The second ARTF funding window is the Investment window: this funding avenue provides grant-based financing for investments that support the National Priority Programs described earlier.

A Journey through 10 of the Most Beautiful Cities in Afghanistan

Standing for millennia at the crossroads of multiple peoples and cultures, Afghanistan has a unique cultural heritage that is as rich and diverse as it is ancient. In an area smaller than the US state of Texas, hundreds upon hundreds of spectacular monuments, remarkable archaeological sites, and stunning architectural creations are testimony to an extraordinary civilization. And there’s no better way to experience this wide array of cultural treasures than by exploring Afghanistan’s most beautiful cities, many of which are so full of history and heritage that they serve as living museums. Here are 10 you’ll want to learn more about.


  1. Kabul

Afghanistan’s largest city and its national capital, Kabul has existed for more than 3,500 years. It’s therefore hardly surprising that the city is home to some of the country’s most notable historic sites, including the legendary Babur’s Gardens. But don’t think that Kabul is entirely focused on the past: the city has recently embarked on a number of new architectural projects, like the Abdul Rahman Mosque, which was designed in the traditional Islamic style but was just built in 2012.

  1. Balkh

Often called “the mother of cities,” Balkh is considered by many to be one of the oldest cities in the world. Located in northern Afghanistan at the crossroads between the Middle East and eastern Asia, Balkh has a history of strong Buddhist influence, which is visible in the ruins of many Buddhist fortifications and constructions that still stand in the city today.


  1. Kandahar

The second-largest city in Afghanistan, Kandahar rests on the site of another city that Alexander the Great founded nearly 2,500 years ago. Today, Kandahar plays an important role in Afghanistan’s spiritual life: the city’s Friday Mosque, a deeply holy Islamic place of worship, is often called “the heart of Afghanistan.”


  1. Mazar-i-Sharif

Mazar-i-Sharif is home to the Blue Mosque, an absolutely stunning structure that was built in its present form more than five centuries ago. Frequently described as “an oasis for peace,” the mosque is so extraordinary that it’s not surprising to learn that it originated in a dream: according to legend, a Middle Eastern scholar dreamed that the bones of a cousin of the prophet Muhammad were resting in northwestern Afghanistan. Fascinated by this story, the sultan at the time built a shrine to honor this cousin, and the city of Mazar-i-Sharif gradually grew up around it.


  1. Herat

Located in western Afghanistan, Herat was one of the country’s most impressive ancient cities, and its legacy is all the more exceptional given that it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times during its history. Today, the Old City of Herat is home to a spectacular collection of medieval Islamic buildings, including the Great Mosque complex, which includes a craftsmen’s shop, where visitors can see artisans at work creating the tiles and mosaics used in the restoration and upkeep of the structure.


  1. Bamiyan

Another city whose development was strongly impacted by Buddhist expansion, Bamiyan is a rich archaeological mix of Persian, Greek, Turkish, Indian, and Chinese influence. At present, the city is best known as the former home of the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan—giant Buddha statues that were unfortunately destroyed in 2001. Since that time, another giant statue has been discovered, along with cave paintings from the 5th and 9th centuries.


  1. Bagram

Located north of Kabul, the town of Bagram may be small, but in ancient times it was an important stop for merchants traveling along the Silk Road from India. The town was originally a Persian settlement, but its development was later influenced by Greek styles of city planning and by Arab rulers; as a result, the art and architecture of the community reflect the typical Central Asian mix of styles that has been dubbed “Greco-Buddhist.”


  1. Samangan

This small town in northern Afghanistan was once a medieval caravan stop. Samangan is best known for its weekly market, an ancient tradition that continues to be extremely popular. The market specializes in traditional Afghan musical instruments built by local artisans.

  1. Jalalabad

This eastern city played an important role in the establishment of modern Afghanistan as it was used as a military campaign base by Ahmad Shah Durrani, the 18th-century ruler whom most regard as the founder of the contemporary Afghan state. Somewhat unusually for Afghanistan, Jalalabad boasts large green areas and surrounding water, which are an important element of the city’s unique beauty. There is also a great deal of striking architecture in Jalalabad, including the Mausoleum of King Amanullah Khan and the more modern Nangarhar University.


  1. Faizabad

The northeastern city of Faizabad has historically been cut off from the rest of Afghanistan due to poor road connections. As a result, the local culture is remarkably well preserved. Today, there are still two functioning bazaars in Faizabad, where residents trade diverse items from cloth and cutlery to tea and sugar.