Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL)

Transforming lives and communities


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AF Afghanistan


About the project Edit

Committed to bringing peace and dignity to the Afghan people as they struggle to overcome poverty, oppression, economic devastation, and injustice wrought by the last thirty years of war and sectarian violence.

AIL presently has offices in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan. AIL serves hundreds of thousands of women and children annually, is run by women and employs 70% women. AIL has offered preschool through University education, training opportunities to teachers in interactive, critical thinking methodologies and to members of civil society in subjects such as human rights, women’s rights, leadership, and peace, and provides health education and health care through its clinics and Community Health Workers.

AIL’s goals are to lay a foundation for quality education and health for years to come and to provide comprehensive education and health services to Afghan women and children, so that they can support and take care of themselves.

AIL requires community participation in all of its projects. Believing that the best results are achieved when everyone is integrally involved, AIL works with community leaders in the planning, developing and implementation of all projects. No project is started unless the community has requested it and is involved in it. Utilizing this visionary strategy, communities can contribute 30 to 50 percent of the resources needed for a project. In the case of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), the contribution by the community can be as high as 90% of the cost of the project with AIL providing administrative and teacher training, oversight and a small amount of funding for partial salaries. These community contributions have come in many forms, including volunteer help, assistance with security, and donated space, materials, and supplies. These contributions have strengthened the communities’ involvement in and ownership of AIL programs and are part of ongoing efforts towards achieving sustainability.

AIL believes that educated people are the key to a future, developed Afghanistan. With that in mind, AIL works to empower all Afghans who are needy and oppressed by expanding their education and health opportunities and by fostering self-reliance and community participation through its Learning Centers; through training opportunities to teachers in interactive and critical thinking methodologies; through workshops for members of civil society in subjects such as human rights, women’s rights, leadership, and peace; and through providing health education and health care through its clinics.

Learning Centers

AIL was the first non-governmental organization (NGO) to start Learning Centers in Afghan refugee camps in 2002. Since then AIL has helped Afghan communities open hundreds of centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Centers start up by request, usually of women, and are designed to meet multiple needs of women and children. The centers train teachers, provide health education, and offer preschool through university classes. Workshops are offered that train women to be leaders and to advocate for their basic human rights. Women also learn income generating skills like sewing and carpet weaving.

After years of war, the literacy rate of Afghan females is among the lowest in the world, but Afghan women are eager to return to school after years of no opportunities to learn. Widows and poor women wish to become literate, older girls, who were prevented from attending school want to learn on an accelerated basis and study with girls their own age, women who were forced to marry young and stop their schooling want to finish their education. In response to these needs Learning Centers offer women and girls several options.

Fast Tracking
The Fast Track Continuing Education program offers literacy and enrichment classes in which women and older girls learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. The Fast Track Mainstream Program allows older girls to finish grades 1-3 in one year, so that they can then enter regular school in the fourth grade. The Fast Track Certificate Program allows older and married girls or women to continue their studies on an individualized basis with the goal of ultimately earning a 6th, 9th, or 12th grade certificate.

Enrichment classes are also taught, including English and Computers. AIL has computer labs in Kabul, Herat, and Peshawar.

Health Services at Learning Centers
Basic health services are available through the centers, including medical examinations, midwifery and nursing services, vaccinations, and health education about hygiene and the proper use of medicine. AIL has also begun an Expectant Mothers Program providing education to help women through pregnancy, birth, and post-natal needs.

When AIL’s first Learning Centers opened in Pakistan and began providing education and health services, word about the opportunities in the programs spread quickly. Soon, AIL was showered with requests from other communities to set up their own centers. Now centers have been opened in Kabul, Herat, Parwan, Balkh, Nooristan, Logar, Wardak and Bamiyan Provinces in Afghanistan, always at the request of these communities. One striking development in AIL’s work with Learning Centers is that this model of providing health and educational services to women has been successfully expanded to hard-to-reach rural areas in provincial Kabul and Herat and more troubled areas such as Logar and Wardak.

Successful strategies
AIL is a successful, grassroots organization and has a proven track record of creativity, innovation, and quality services that tackle the desperate statistics on education and health today in Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs more high-quality, local civil society organizations to meet the health and education needs of Afghans now. There is a desperate need to build the capacity of Afghan civil society to ensure that the people will be able to meet their educational and health needs without foreign assistance in the future.

Since AIL began helping them, AIL supported centers have been able to improve their management practices, implement interactive teaching methods, and increase their student enrollment, particularly of female students. Many centers have either become independent or achieved their goals, some have closed. AIL provides needed materials and supplies to the centers for example, before AIL started supporting a center in Parwan province, they had no black board, chalk, chairs, tables, or books.

AIL teacher training staff visit the centers regularly and provide their teachers and managers with needed training. The teachers and managers have improved and work according to their lesson plans. Students and their families have noticed the difference and are very happy with AIL. One success story, illustrating AIL not only trains women to support themselves but also empowers them to be leaders in their communities, comes from one of AIL’s sewing and tailoring training courses in Herat.

School Support
Through its innovative teacher training and school support program, AIL provides assistance and an administrative structure to schools and schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, AIL supports:

• Community schools for Afghan refugee students in Pakistan
• Community based schools for students in Herat
• Pre-school programs
• Advanced classes for boys in Mir Bacha Kot
• Scholarships for students in Afghanistan and Pakistan

This has been invaluable to tens of thousands of Afghan children whose education was interrupted by the war and civil strife in Afghanistan. School support includes teacher training, on site monitoring and supervision of teachers, teachers’ salaries, administrative support, curriculum development, and provision of school materials and supplies. AIL-supported schools use interactive, student-centered teaching methods.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit


• Since its inception in 1996, AIL’s model of community-based support, with 316 Educational Learning Centers providing education to 235,000 Afghan women and children, has been replicated by others across Afghanistan, reaching populations with no prior access to education.
• AIL’s teacher-training curriculum, which includes interactive learning and critical thinking skills, has created a new basis for a society that values human rights, personal responsibility and leadership. AIL has trained 16,400 teachers, reaching nearly 3,470,000 students.
• Having impacted the lives of more than 7 million Afghans through education, teacher training, and workshops on human rights, women’s rights, peace, and leadership, AIL has helped Afghans to move to the next level of self-reliance. Ninety-five percent of the participants in leadership workshops have demonstrated leadership in their communities, something unheard of in the past.

What is the social value of this project? Edit


Impact: 9 million
Students: 275,298
Centers: 326
Clinics: 15
Teachers Trained: 19,886
Civil Society Members Trained: 8,436
Patients: 1,488,722
Health Education: 2,044,559
Trained in Health Workshops: 8,888
Provinces AIL has worked in: 11

1. Activities and Impact of Afghan Institute of Learning 1996-2011
Since its inception in 1995, AIL has positively affected the lives of millions of Afghans. More than 70% of the beneficiaries have been women and girls and most of the men trained in pedagogy, human rights and leadership teach girls or work with females. Years have been spent developing AIL’s basic foundational programs of providing academic and skills-based education in diverse, community-based Learning Centers, training teachers in interactive, critical thinking methodologies, training members of civil society in human rights, women’s rights, leadership, and peace, and provides health education and health care through its clinics and Community Health Workers. AIL’s innovation is in its holistic approach to providing the basics of health and education to bring those Afghans who are at a basic survival existence into healthy, literate individuals as one package. As Afghans become more educated and healthy, they are able to move forward.

In order to significantly impact the lives of Afghans, AIL has:

• Developed a teacher training staff (95% female) that has created a number of interactive training curricula for pedagogy and subject matter workshops for pre-school through high school, including teacher training manuals for preschool, literacy and primary education that have been adopted by the Afghan government;
• Trained teachers to teach in interactive ways that promote critical thinking and problem solving skills; millions of students (mostly female) have benefited from the training of training of teachers; 70% of those trained are female and most of the male teachers trained teach females;
• Supported schools in Pakistan (70% female students), 80 underground schools for girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban and presently support Learning Centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan;
• Founded a university for Afghan women and men in Pakistan with colleges in computer science, nursing and pedagogy.
• Provided training in the areas of human rights, leadership, gender, peace, personal health, administration and democracy to all students in AIL’s schools and centers and to civil society members.
• Provided education at all levels; pre-school through university and income generating skills, to all those who want to learn.
• Provided pedagogy and administrative training to 3 private schools, grades 1-12, started by Dr. Yacoobi
• Provided health services to over a million patients (over 70% female) through health clinics
• Provided health education to women and children at clinics, schools and centers
• Trained women and girls in in-depth health workshops on RH, women’s health, HIV AIDS, self-immolation
• Trained nurse/midwife/health educators and traditional birth attendants to provide health services to women and girls
• Train and coordinate home visits using volunteer community health workers (CHW)who can provide basic health advice, first aid and health education; each team has one male and one female CHW
• Facilitated the building of a private gynecological and surgical hospital in Herat and provides technical support when requested
• Supports historically relevant cultural programs including a library, a book about ancient sites in Herat, courses in a local historical site in carpet weaving, silk weaving, glass blowing, miniature painting, and calligraphy, and
• Publishes a quarterly health and education magazine in Dari.

Healthy, educated Afghans are now becoming aware of their human rights and their leadership capabilities and now different kinds of education and training are being requested. AIL then responds with programs that meet their needs. What truly makes AIL’s work unique and so important is that it is rebuilding self-worth, families, and a culture that respects the rights of each individual. AIL’s approach is unique, innovative, and is working to rebuild the Afghan culture, society and people.

2. AIL and the Millennium Development Goals
AIL works to achieve progress in Afghan society towards the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty and hunger and gender equality and empowering women. Each of its Learning Centers is allowing women to become literate, to open up a whole new world to their learning about their own human rights, gender equality, and leadership capabilities. They are learning to think for themselves, therefore empowering them to be able to move forward. Learning Centers are also providing courses in employment skills which are opening the door to families having an income that was impossible in the past. The ability of these women to bring money into families is also helping break the cycle of no education. The income generated by the wives helps the husband understand the importance of both of them, and their children, having an education that will open doors to financial independence.

The skills of AIL’s teachers and teacher trainers are consistently gaining strength. AIL teacher trainers continue to add new curriculum gained through their own teaching experience and outside sources. AIL recently added curriculum that teaches students how to handle their own money and save for the future, as well as hands-on learning about their native, natural environment. Teacher trainers are also adding new experiential learning opportunities to expand on critical thinking skills.

Teacher training is held that brings students into the training so that the teachers could try their hand at the new methodologies they were learning in a classroom setting before implementing them in their own classes. It allowed them to get a true feel for how these new methodologies would work in the real world. It’s this forward thinking of the teacher trainers that making such a great impact on the overall educational system in Afghanistan.

AIL was able to respond to a request from the remote Nooristan Province to train their teachers who had never had the opportunity to be trained. Those teachers were able to return and train more teachers and impact students who had never received anything close to quality education. The Afghan government consistently requests AIL to train its public school teachers as well. It has requested that AIL add more teacher training in the refugee camps in Pakistan so that when the Afghans return home there will be an adequate number of highly qualified teachers ready to help them.

AIL is also making significant progress in the MDGs of reducing child mortality and maternal health. It is currently in the process of expanding its pilot Expectant Mother Workshop program where patients are referred to the workshop by the clinic or Community Health Workers. The workshop takes less than 3-hours on one day and provides expectant mothers and their birth attendants with detailed health education relating to pregnancy, normal and complicated delivery, breastfeeding and signs of high risk factors for mother or baby. The training is aimed at mothers who have limited access to deliver at clinics or hospitals. The goal of the Expectant Mother Program is to reduce maternal and infant injuries and deaths during childbirth and the immediate aftermath through access to information on proper care and encouragement to go to a clinic or hospital for delivery if possible. Following the workshop, a basic delivery kit is given to each pregnant woman and a scarf to each caregiver.

Since the Expectant Mother Program started in November 2010 only a few mothers have given birth did so at home. The vast majority have had their babies at the clinic or hospital. This is remarkable in a society where home birth is the norm and where today’s mothers were most likely born at home and have mothers themselves or mothers in law who believe home birth the accepted practice as they themselves experienced it. These women have little or no access to women who have had births at clinics or hospitals so they are stepping out of the known in choosing a clinic birth.

AIL is indeed making significant progress toward the MDGs. It’s basic education, health, and health education programs are the basis for Afghans moving forward. It is important to remember that Afghanistan is still a place where it needs to take the very first baby steps. There are so many people to reach to build that first layer of building block toward self-sufficiency. People must become healthy and literate, and must understand their most basic rights before they can move into AIL’s leadership programs and take action.

3. Evidence of AIL’s Overall Effectiveness
With a 15-year history of educational and health work in a devastated, war-torn area of the world, AIL has been able to continue serving Afghan women and children despite insufficient or nonexistent clean water, housing, employment, roads, buildings, health clinics, hospitals, schools, medicine, and food. AIL has been able to successfully introduce programs and services that have historically ignited controversy including women’s and girls education, Learning Centers as meeting places for women, women’s human rights training, underground home schools for girls, and family planning education and services. By working together with community leaders, AIL has been able to expand the reach of these programs to benefit hundreds of thousands of women and children despite ongoing insecurity in the region and during the oppressive regime of the Taliban. AIL has also trained Afghan women to perform key management and administrative roles in government and civil society organizations. For example, the current governor of Bamyian Province is an AIL Leadership Workshop participant and former employee.

Recognition for AIL
AIL has received financial support from hundreds of individual and organizational donors, including 38 private foundations/charitable organizations and the United Nations Population Fund. With this support, AIL has been able to dramatically expand the scope and reach of its services.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

AIL is an Afghan, women run, non-governmental organization (NGO) which was founded in 1995 by Dr. Sakena Yacoobi to help address the crisis of poor access to education and health services for Afghan people especially women and children. These people cannot support their lives, and this has a huge impact on Afghan society as a whole.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

AIL has been project partners with Creating Hope International (CHI) – a 501(c)3, non-profit in the U.S. –since 1996. Through a long-term technical assistance agreement, CHI provides advice, training, financial management, and fund-raising assistance and acts as fiscal sponsor for AIL upon request. CHI also provides technical assistance to other private educational and health projects in Afghanistan.

AIL is grateful for all donors and volunteers. They are the ones who have made our work possible. We would like to acknowledge their special efforts and thank them for their ongoing support which is vital to our mission of improving the lives of the disadvantaged. We are a team effort working together and not only do our supporters provide critical resources but often pertinent advice, suggestions, mentoring and caring hearts that help us develop successful strategies.

To donate
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Financial Information
Please click here to view the AIL audit 2008 and the AIL Income and Expenditures 2010 and 2011.


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