The classroom buzzes with new term energy. Here in Afghanistan, the academic year starts at the end of March and runs through December. Although the Taliban banned Afghan women from attending university and secondary school last year, girls can still learn alongside boys from grades one to six.
You know this school because you provided nutritious breakfast meal cookies to 800 students here last year. In a country where 20 million people are acutely food insecure and 3.2 million children under 5 are malnourished, those cookies were a lifeline. The breakfast cookies encouraged parents to send their children to school, so the attendance rate skyrocketed, the students’ morale increased, and only two percent of the students failed the academic year. This year, parents enrolled 940 students in this school.
You know how important acknowledging hard work is to keeping kids motivated. That’s why our community of peacemakers came back at the beginning of the school year with 940 bags containing five notebooks, six pens, two pencils, two rulers, four erasers, and two sharpeners. These bags celebrate the students’ achievements last year, teaching them that hard work is rewarded. This support will reverberate for years to come because educated people are essential to a country’s development.
In a place where over six million people are on the brink of famine and two out of every three people need humanitarian assistance to survive, school supplies are a luxury. Not only does the stationery keep kids excited to learn, it also gives parents one less worry.
This month, the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for the United Nations (UN) in Afghanistan after forbidding Afghan women from working for other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) last December. If women are not allowed to work for aid organizations, it is harder for aid workers to reach female-led families who need support, especially in areas where the Taliban enforces gender separation rules. As some organizations take the heartbreaking decision to leave Afghanistan, our community of peacemakers is still here.
Working relationally has deepened our ties to the community where this school is located. Last year, we distributed food packs and employed some of the moms to make thick, family size, quilted blankets to keep those in need warm during Afghanistan’s punishing winters. As tree planting season is upon us, you’re planting trees and flowers at 16 schools in the city to help offset air pollution and raise environmental awareness. (Stay tuned for more on that project later.) We will continue supporting vulnerable Afghans until the conflicts caused by poverty and violence have been transformed into positive social progress rooted in peacebuilding.