The younger generation learn how to repair mobile phones. After some training in the Community Learning Centre, they can open their own small repair shop.
During the last two years, DV V International and its Afghan partner, the Afghan National Association for Adult Education (ANAFAE) have re-established seven Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in different urban districts of Mazar-e-Sharif City, in the northern Province Balk, bordering Uzbekistan.
These centres were originally set up on community ground by UN-Habitat as District Community Forums (DCFs) in 1995 during the Taliban era. They were meant to serve community needs and to provide a safe-place for women to benefit from social and education programmes. The programess mainly focussed on literacy education and work opportunities, supported by small loans for illiterate women.
The DCFs operated a printing press, a taxi service and some act as health posts in times of urban development. After 2002, the UN HABITAT program ended. The DCFs were forgotten for years but managed, somehow, to continue some small activities with very limited resources and limited organisation capacities.
The new Community Learning Centres are deeply rooted in the fight against poverty. The centres promote skill and competence development for disadvantaged groups, empowerment, social change and new life opportunities.
With around ten million illiterate adults, literacy education, especially for women, is still crucial. Despite the success in building up the current Afghan education system, access to education is still a problem. At present well over 30% of children are not enrolled in school, most of them young girls. School education lacks qualified teachers. Less than 3% of the population have completed a formal vocational training. Access to higher education and vocational training is still limited. The future of the countr y critically depends on the training opportunities and the qualification of the younger generation. More than half the population is under 25 years old, their unemployment rate is high.
The number of school graduates will increase to about 500,000 in the coming years, but there are still insuf ficient vocational training opportunities. Young people that could make important contributions to economic growth lack new knowledge and skills.
Young women from traditional families find a safe place to learn in the Community Learning Centre and can actively take part in the literacy classes.
The new Community Learning Centre concept takes this into consideration. The Community Education Programmes in Afghanistan still address the interests and needs of the traditional learners, but the education needs and challenges of the younger generations in these urban communities, especially of girls, have changed.
The objective here is to widen participation in education, as well as to increase educational chances by relevant community-based offers that develop skills and also provide an important bridge in the transition from school to university education or employment.
Complementary programmes support school education. More young people from the urban communities now want to join universities. Just recently, in one of the CLCs, 68 out of 90 learners who joined the preparation courses for the university entry test got the highest scores in the city.
The education programmes offered at the centres improve the opportunities of the younger generations in urban communities. It helps them to get a star t in working life and it supports their employability through IT and English language courses, offering technical qualifications, as well as business and office skills.
The centres provide the local infrastructure and resources for social development through community-based education. They make a key contribution to Lifelong Learning in a very comprehensive manner (informal, non-formal, formal). They also strengthen capacity building for social change and participation. Many of the young learners participated in the recent elections and now expect stability and change.
Community education, as ANAFAE does it, is a way for people to enhance their lives through learning and collaboration. The new community learning concept emphasizes increased involvement of parents, businesses and local NGOs to become par tners in addressing educational and community concerns. For example, the owner of a local mobile phone repair shop provides practical technical trainings in one of the centres. Womenʼs groups meet and discuss womenʼs rights.
The cooperation with the parents and the families is the strength of the successful education programmes. Parents and community elders influence the quality of the education programmes. Literacy programmes are provided free of charge. Most of the education programmes are suppor ted by the families through the payment of moderate fees. This is contributing to the sustainability of the centres.
The number of learners from dif ferent generations is increasing, with the expectation of up to 14,000 learners during 2014. This will definitely influence the social transformation of the communities.
Another part of the new concept includes the suggestion to develop the centres as a hub for various community ser- vices. In particular social, basic health, vaccination and food distribution programs are on the list. The centres can also function as a platform for cooperation between governmental institutional and NGOs, offering a range of services within the community.
Wolfgang Schur, Project Coordination Afghanistan,
DVV International, firstname.lastname@example.org
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