Rahyab School for Disabled Children
Location – Kabul
Focus – Education
Afghan children face hardship on many levels, but disabled children are confronted with additional barriers, such as social stigma and isolation from the community. It is believed that 1 in 20 Afghan children today live with disabilities, either congenital or as a consequence of the ongoing war. The continuing conflict and displacement of populations make it difficult to plan and provide specialized rehabilitation and education services for the disabled. Due to lack of resources, awareness and weak political support, Afghan schools do not even have minimal facilities for disabled children’s education. This means that some 75% of disabled children do not go to school, condemning them to a life of poverty and extremely limited employment opportunities.
In 2004, two staff teachers and six volunteers, who are themselves disabled, decided to gather children with disabilities to teach them sign language, basic literacy and numeracy skills. What started as a community-based initiative has developed into the Rahyab School (Persian for ‘finding one’s way’) and now welcomes around 450 children every day, with 40% of them being girls. The community continues to support the school and in 2013 community members donated land and material 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 in Kabul. In 2011, AfD stepped in to provide operational and advocacy support. AfD’s main role however is to provide the children with lunch every day. Nutrition remains our priority since most students’ parents often struggle to feed their large families.
The school’s objective is to develop deaf, mute and blind children’s academic and employment potential. For this reason, the curriculum is specifically designed to teach children skills that will help them cope with their disabilities, such as braille and sign language. However, the children also learn a wide variety of vocational skills, including IT, music, sewing, waiter training or bicycle repairing. The school also provides psychological therapy to help the children overcome traumas.
It now employs 36 specially trained teachers, many of whom are themselves disabled and thus understand the special needs of the children.
Former students have found jobs in various areas such as hotels, tailoring businesses and as technicians in mobile repair shops. Some of them have become teachers at the Rayhab School themselves. Going forward, AfD plans to develop strategic partnerships with businesses, NGOs and government agencies in Afghanistan to introduce the school’s graduates as prospective employees.