Afghan girls to improve their digital skills in refugee project

Girls and women continue to be denied education in Afghanistan

As a new school year sees girls still shut out of secondary education in Afghanistan, a Theirworld-supported programme will help refugees in the UK fulfil their potential.

A new school year began this week in Afghanistan – but girls continue to be shut out of secondary education by the Taliban. 

Many Afghan girls who fled to the United Kingdom as refugees are looking on with sadness at the situation in their homeland. They are in British schools now, but they also face obstacles when it comes to learning the digital skills needed to succeed in the classroom and future work. 

To tackle the challenge, Theirworld is supporting a project called The Wired Future: Digital Education for Afghan Girls. The two-year programme will provide digital learning to 400 Afghan refugee girls in London – most of them new arrivals to the UK. 

It will be run by the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA), an award-winning British charity which works with families, communities and partner organisations across the UK and Afghanistan to tackle problems affecting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. 

Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi, Founder and Director of ACAA, said: “With the support of Theirworld, 400 Afghan girls will boost their imagination and creativity, improve their critical thinking and digital skills, and will have better chances of success in education and employment.” 

In Afghanistan, there had been progress in enrolling girls in school after the Taliban was toppled in 2001. The number of girls in primary school rose from virtually none to 2.5 million in 2018, according to the United Nations. 

80% Of school-aged Afghan girls and young women are out of education - a total of 2.5 million, says UNESCO

In the same period, women’s literacy rates doubled, and the total school student population swelled from one million to 10 million. Then came the return of the Taliban in 2021 and the banning of girls over 12 from education. In December 2022, university education for women was also suspended. 

“The hopes of Afghan girls and women to learn and work have again been crushed. We are very concerned about girls’ and women’s development – and particularly their mental health,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi in January. 

The new school year has started in 28 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces (the others are already well into their academic year). For the second year, Afghanistan will be the only country in the world that bans girls and women from secondary school and higher education – although some girls continue to be educated in outlying provinces and through secret and online schools. 

For those who leave Afghanistan for a life in another country, integrating into a new school, a different culture and an unfamiliar job market can be difficult without the right skills. 

The Wired Future project will provide a safe, girls-only learning space. Dr Dr Nasimi said this will help them to “improve their digital skills, have a fulfilling career, achieve their full potential and eventually increase their job prospects in the UK”. 

We are excited to be working with ACAA to ensure Afghan girls have access to digital education and mental health support.

Paula-Louise Eze-John, Theirworld Senior Projects Manager

Weekly in-person classes will give Afghan girls essential and advanced digital skills and collaborative learning skills. There will also be workshops on digital rights and security. 

ACAA hopes that girls who have been in the UK for a while can help new arrivals with their IT skills, mentor them more generally and help them settle into their new life. 

As well as digital education for 400 girls, ACAA intends to pilot a creative education project for a smaller number of girls. This is aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing, developing English skills and creating a strong platform for social inclusion. 

Sessions will allow girls to use their imagination and critical thinking skills through poetry, painting, storytelling and other creative methods.

Theirworld Senior Projects Manager Paula-Louise Eze-John said: “We are excited to be working with Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) to ensure that 400 Afghan girls have access to digital education and mental health support, designed to have a long-term impact on their future. 

“In light of the ongoing instability and girls’ education ban in Afghanistan it is important for us to work with partners such as ACAA, who are committed to creating opportunities for girls.”