Literacy in Afghanistan
“What’s 57 minus eight?” the German says in fluent Dari. The girls seem shocked and stare at the floor. The man selects a pupil and points at her. She thinks, wrings her hands, blushes, starts, pauses, and eventually says, “49” before collapsing like a punctured balloon.
Peter Schwittek smiles and winks at the teacher. He wears a light blue shalwar kameez. His face is gaunt and his white hair stands up like a hedehog’s. The Abu Bakre Sediq mosque is a light blue box in a side street of the Jagatut section of Kabul. Outside, policemen nap in the sun and children play with kites. But the war is never far away. The mosque is only a few hundred yards from an air base.
Schwittek’s Afghan adventure began in 1973 when he took at job at a university in Kabul. He has now been in Afghanistan since 1998 and runs the NGO OFARIN - a German acronym that means “Well done!” in Farsi. “It took him a long time to come up with it,” his wife says, giggling.
“Our students learn to read and write in only one year,” he explains. Many are veterans of public schools where they learned nothing. “And they understand what they read,” he adds. Typical enrollment is 5,500 …