It is believed that one in 20 Afghan children today lives with disabilities, either from birth or as a consequence of war. Continuing conflict and displacement of refugees have increased the difficulties of planning and providing of specific rehabilitation and education services for the disabled. As the country’s situation remains unstable, it is assumed that the number of disabled children is constantly rising. Due to lack of resources and awareness and weak political support, Afghan schools do not have even minimal facilities for disabled children’s education.
Children with disabilities are often marginalized from society and their families because of stigma, and live in poverty. About 75% of disabled children do not go to school. Young Afghans with disabilities have very limited opportunities to be employed and to lead a dignified life in the future.
In 2004, 2 staff teachers and 6 volunteers – themselves disabled – started gathering children with disabilities to teach them sign language and basic literacy and numeracy skills. In 2011, AfD stepped in to provide operational and advocacy support. From its informal beginnings as a community-based initiative, the Rahyab school (Persian for ‘finding one’s way) is born, and has grown to welcome 400 children every day, 40% of whom are girls. The community continues to support the school, and in 2013, land and material were donated by community members for the construction of a school building.
The school provides basic education, food and transportation for blind, deaf and/or speech impaired boys and girls from very poor families. AfD provides the children with breakfast and lunch every day, without which many of them would not have access to regular daily meals. It also supports the school by providing funds for school supplies, teacher’s pay and other management bills.
The school’s education is specifically designed to teach children skills that will help them cope with their disabilities, such as braille, sign language and other communication skills. The school also provides psychological therapy to overcome traumas and vocational training to enhance children’s self-sufficiency. It now employs 36 specially trained teachers, many of whom are themselves disabled and thus understand the special needs of the children. To date, 15 former students have found jobs in various areas such as hotels, tailoring businesses and as technicians in mobile repair shops.
We plan to develop strategic partnerships with businesses in Afghanistan, NGOs and government agencies to introduce our graduates as prospective employees.
AfD’s work with the school has been supported by the Mohammed S. Farsi Foundation and the Ferdows Foundation.