“It was as if I was blind” – Education Programmes in Afghanistan Changing Lives

This is the story of 38-year-old Sarah Jafer, who was unable to read and write, and felt increasingly isolated from her children’s lives and society. Now Sarah is able to confidently read and write, and is feeling empowered.

Aged 38 and with ten children, Sarah Jafar thought her chance to read and write was long gone. She married young, and never had the opportunity to go to school. “I couldn’t buy anything because I couldn’t count, and I didn’t know how much change I was getting,” she remembers. “It was as if I was blind.”

Sarah’s life changed completely when she joined Islamic Relief’s home-based education course in the central province of Bamyan. In nine months of studies she covered 20 topics, and now reads fluently. She no longer feels helpless when faced with sign boards or her children’s vaccination sheets.

“Those who are not educated are like people who don’t have eyes,” she says. “Now I know my role in society and I am able to give my children direction.” Only three out of ten people in Bamyan can read and write, and just 12% of women. But thanks to Islamic Relief, working in partnership with the provincial education department, 1,840 women have now completed the same course of study as Sarah.

Each course is delivered by women for women in their own homes, making learning easily accessible and in harmony with cultural norms. Sarah now values education so much that she is sending all her children to school, even paying $4 a month (£2.50) for her six-year-old daughter to go to a kindergarten where she is learning English. In the words of the African proverb: ‘If you educate a man you educate an individual but if you educate a woman you educate a nation.’