Sahar Education: Afghan Program Update

I was recently invited to join a special program organized by SAHAR. The speakers were Malahat Mazaher (Executive Director), Catherine Gelbrand (Board President), Shogofa Amini (Education Program Manager), Nadia Hashimi (Board Member), Tracy Klinkroth (Board Member), Julie Bolz (Founder and responsible for getting me involved some twenty years go), and Jason Simmons (Implementing Partner, Afghanistan American Friendship Association).

The speakers emphasized that evacuation of families of staff was most important. Funds have been raised for charter flights and special evacuation flights but logistics are overwhelming. While staff and families qualify for special P2 visas, the difficulty is that the applicant must apply outside Afghanistan according to the US Department of State. Once these Afghans obtain a P2 visa they qualify for refugee status in the US.

Sahar has been operating in Afghanistan for some twenty years. Over 250,000 girls attended the schools Sahar has supported. On August 15, 2021, Sahar’s operation on the ground was halted due to difficulties of working under the Taliban. Schools in Balkh province where Sahar is active are open for girls 1 through 12 but attendance by students and teachers is low. Teachers have not been paid for five months and female teachers are no longer allowed to teach in boys’ schools.

Although Sahar is stepping back, it is working with multiple partners on multiple projects focusing on local organizations with e-learning, alternative tools of learning, and obtaining education. Sahar remains hopeful and is grateful for the generosity and commitment to help make life better for its staff, and the women and girls of Afghanistan during this crisis. Sahar believes in the future of Afghanistan and its people and offers support in every way possible.