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Hope for schools in Afghanistan January 12, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines.
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The latest issues of our three excellent magazines have just been returned from the printers.

As is always the case, the office has gone very quiet as everyone here disects their copies of International School (is), Prep School and Conference & Common Room over a cup of coffee.

Editorial eyes scour the pages to make sure all the commas and quotation marks are in the right place; designers check the asthetitcs; production inspect the quality of the print reproduction; sales make sure that advertisments are placed where they should be.

The quiet and calm in the John Catt office betrays three excellent magazines, full of insight. Conference & Common Room looks at links with education in South Africa, while Prep School focuses on academic subjects and creative uses of the curriculum.

Meanwhile, in her article in International School (is), editor Caroline Ellwood describes some of the behind-the-scenes efforts to re-establish education in Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan is still fraught with difficulties. Between 2007 and March 2009, 108 schools were fully destroyed, an additional 64 were partially damaged, and 40,000 children, including 23,000 girls, were deprived of their education. A particularly vulnerable area is Helmand, where fierce fighting in recent years has done massive damage to school buildings.

It was in response to the plight of children who had lost their schools that a group of British army wives, a Colonel and a civilian doctor, founded the Afghan Appeal Fund in 2006. Caroline Richards, wife of General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, became its President and the appeal is run on a daily basis by a young army wife, Mel Bradley.

Run entirely by volunteers with links to the British Army, the aim has been to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Afghanistan, and particularly the children, and raise money to help them. Of great concern has been education and the need for school buildings or, in the case of one school in Kabul, refurbishment of tents!

Since its foundation the Fund has rebuilt and provided equipment for schools across the area, sometimes only to realise that the Taliban have destroyed their efforts. Indeed Lady Richards says that much of their work cannot be revealed, since to advertise what has been done would endanger its success.

“There are real problems in establishing contact and getting money to a war zone” she says. “The standard of building and the whole issue surrounding a syllabus, for example, has to be forgotten. I know the children learn by rote and will of course learn the Qur’an by heart. The mullah to the armed forces suggests we send Arabic grammar books so that the children can learn Arabic so they can understand the Koran.

“Then security is such a huge issue. Anyone working with western forces are open to attack by the Taleban. If the tribal elder for the region is in control then a school we are promoting should be safe and it will be built by local Afghans who are desperate for a school for their children. But the teachers are unaware where the funding is coming from,” she says.

All three magazines are published three times a year, at the start of each school term – September, January and May. Subscriptions are available via the John Catt Bookshop.

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