Education in Afghanistan: Up Close with CRS

Afghanistan Education

As her classmates look on, a young girl in the village of Bahar-e-Olia completes an art lesson on the white board. CRS organized this class through its Community Based Education program, which launched in Afghanistan in 2006 to make education accessible to Afghanistan’s children, many of whom were cut off by mountainous terrain and poor roads from formal education institutions. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

By David Snyder,

I’m wrapping up five days up here in west-central Afghanistan with CRS, and I have to say it’s been an amazing week. I’ve been to Afghanistan once before but I was only in Kabul. Ghor Province, of which Chakhcharan is the capital, is like a different world.

CRS has been working here since 2006 and much of their programming centers around water and education. From a photographer’s standpoint they are amazing projects to photograph—clear running spring water against a parched and seemingly desolate landscape, and the cherubic faces of Afghan children in dimly lit village classrooms.

But beyond the visual elements of the last few days, the work being done here helps to put Afghanistan in a different context for me. Before this trip I knew only the TV news version—suicide bombings and casualty figures, nightly tragedies that run the risk of inuring us to the plight of human beings in this country.

I believe in education as the cornerstone to development. Seeing children in rural classrooms learning to read and write cannot help but inspire hope. If there is to be a future free from the poverty that has defined so much of Afghanistan’s past, I believe it must start with education.

CRS has reached more than 13,500 kids with that chance through its Community Based Education program. Here in Ghor Province, only 28 percent of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school, and only 8 percent of women can read and write. That says much about the challenges ahead.

But as I pack up to head back down to Kabul for some work there, I take with me something I could not have gotten anywhere else but here in the dusty villages of Ghor—a real and genuine appreciation for the struggle so many here are facing, and how much dignity they bring to challenges more monumental than most of us can fathom.

They are remarkable people and I’m so fortunate to have had the chance to see what’s happening here. It will stay with me.

David Snyder is a free-lance photojournalist based in Baltimore.

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