General Donation


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  Saturday, September 29, 2012
  Cambridge Common, 10 AM
  Registration Fee: $30.00
  Sponsorship opportunities available               from $2500-$250
  Phone: 617-876-3830
  552 Massachusetts Avenue,                       Cambridge, MA-02139
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Education Brings Hope for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

In a country where the literacy rate for adults hovers around 50 percent, Barakat’s elementary school classes help educate students and allows them to pursue their goals in life.


“School created the sense of looking [at] myself in [the] future,” 11-year-old Sher Bano said. She is a fifth grader in Barakat’s Ersari Elementary School in the Attock region of Pakistan. Sher Bano wants to be a banker in the future. “My parents are poor, so I will look at my school to help me in achieving my goal,” she added.

Ersari Elementary School has a total of 334 students enrolled for the 2012-2013 academic year. While 270 are boys, only 64 are girls. In Pakistan, about 70 percent of students were enrolled in primary education as of 2009.

Fourteen-year-old Naserullah, also a fifth grader, enjoys English the most of all his subjects. He plans to be a doctor, and said his uncle would be a key support in achieving his dream, at least financially. “My school is doing [a] great job in making us good members of [the] community,” he said. Naserullah has been in school since he was eight.

Ersari Elementary School teaches Naserullah, Sher Bano, and their classmates a curriculum set by the Pakistani government, asalt
well as subjects recommended by the Afghan government. The subjects they study include geography, English, mathematics, science, computer skills, Islamic studies, Urdu, Dari and Pashto.

Thirteen-year-old Sumera has been inspired by her experience at the Ersari Elementary School. She hopes to get a scholarship to high school and return as a teacher. “I’ve gotten strong inspiration from my teachers,” she said. “They are so loving and teach us at their best, and their appearance set in [my] mind for me to be a good teacher like them . . . and to create awareness among Afghans.”

You can help support these bright young minds by donating to Barakat at

Report from the Field with Zuhra Abhar

Zuhra Abhar, after working for almost a year as Barakat’s Overseas Programs Director in Afghanistan recently returned to the U.S. for a brief visit. She oversees all of Barakat’s five programs in Afghanistan, keeping track of teachers, families, staff, and students.

One of Abhar’s most challenging tasks is dealing with cultural prejudice against keeping girls in Barakat schools. She related to us that “When girls get to 12 or 13 . . . parents pull them out of school. Because there’s a lack of female teachers, when the girls are getting older the parents don’t feel comfortable sending their teenage daughter to school with a male teacher.”

She added that the unstable security situation in Afghanistan is also a factor in parents keeping their daughters home. Scared by recent schoolgirl poisonings and the dangers of even walking to school, parents often keep their children home to keep them safe.


There is, however, a break in the clouds. Since her installment as the Overseas Program Director, Abhar has seen tremendous improvement in families’ willingness to send their children to school. “It’s amazing to see the changes from last year,” she said, smiling. “I think talking to the parents and letting them know the importance of education has been very successful.”

Barakat’s Afghanistan staff go directly to parents to try to persuade them of the importance and benefits of educating their daughters; for example, being able to read a sign at the doctor’s office. They also reassure parents that their daughters will have female teachers and female classmates. Reflecting on the difficulty of the job, Abhar ruefully admitted “It’s not easy.”

Because of the religious social norms in Afghanistan requiring males and females be separated in public, one of Abhar’s goals is to hire more female teachers for girls’ classes, particularly for the higher grades. She also wants to improve teacher education; most teachers have only graduated from high school or have a two-year degree. In the future, Abhar wants to develop teaching workshops to ensure that the teachers have a good understanding of teaching methods, and of their students. “The teachers need to be more trained . . . before they go and develop their curriculum,” she said. Currently, teachers are trained for three to five days every three years, when the Ministry of Education issues a new curriculum.

Abhar has a personal understanding of the need for female education in Afghanistan; until she was sixteen she lived there under a regime that did not allow her to go to school. She then moved to the United States with her family. “I wanted to take my experience [in the States] and go back and help,” she explained, “especially the girls and women. I can put myself in their position because I was once there—I couldn’t go to school. I know how difficult it is for them right now not to have an education.”

Abhar has translated her passion and experience to success. She has helped facilitate Human Rights Workshops, for which she has developed a successful handbook. Subsequently, the dropout of Barakat students, particularly girls, has decreased significantly, and the program has gained a few female teachers. The curriculum is being sharpened to focus on science, math, computer studies, and English, to prepare students for high school and even university. “It’s not only about education,” Abhar proudly said. “Barakat is providing hope for the girls and women, as well as fo their families and the country.”