Imagine a school of 330 girls with a 92% college acceptance rate in a country where only a third of girls go to school. Then imagine this school having no electricity.
When Softheon learned this was a reality at the Rustam School in Afghanistan’s Yakawlang district, we were committed to finding a solution.
These are daughters of subsistence farmers. 95% of their parents cannot read or write.
Despite their upbringing, the girls are fiercely intelligent and motivated. The heads of all classes, except for one, are girls. When a journalist asked a group of fourth graders, nearly all girls, to name their favorite subject, they all responded with math.
The students and the instructors do not see across gendered lines in education. “Men and women are equal,” the school’s principal said. “They have the same brains and the same bodies.”
And they do not take their education for granted. In 2001, the Yakawlang district in the Bamiyan province was ruled by the Taliban, during which time girls’ education was banned and women were mostly confined to their homes. Since then, parents have pushed their daughters to take advantage of education. The threat of the Taliban still lingers for some.
The principal said, “These kids all know you can’t make a slave out of someone who is educated.”
So, the girls persevere despite the odds. They walk hours across a mountainous region to a school without resources. The open-air school has no heat, electricity or blackboards. Teachers use chalk on cardboard painted black. For computer class, they study the Windows operating system by sharing books. Only one of the 60 students in the computer class even had a computer at home.
One student told the journalist, “The thing I wish for must in the world is a laptop.”
Given Softheon’s stature as a technology company and its history of promoting STEM education via nationally ranked internships for college students and hackathons for high school students, we quickly figured out a way to support these girls’ desire for a STEM education.
We found the Central Asia Institute, a charity that promotes girls’ education and livelihood skills in the area. After just a few weeks, we raised thousands of dollars within the company to send to the charity, getting the girls one step closer to getting the education they deserve.
We decided to share this story in honor of National STEM Day, a day dedicated to inspiring kids to explore and pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering and math.
Whether we’re in the United States or Afghanistan, we can all agree that education is power. And we, at Softheon, support students’ empowerment, especially for girls in STEM where only about a quarter of STEM workers are female.