Near Kabul’s Babur Gardens, there is technical school for children. Its principle, Ustad Baqi, who returned from Germany in 2006, founded it to make an impact on Afghan society. He started with just a few rooms, and since then his vision has greatly expanded. Principle Baqi was very inviting towards us, giving us a tour and explaining that the school is not a replacement for standard grammar school but more of a technical school. Acting as an NGO, Baqi’s school pays its students to learn and practice crafts and artwork, while also teaching them computer skill as well as reading and writing. On our tour, we saw high quality calligraphy, carpets, and woodwork that the students had made. Intrigued with the school and its products, we scheduled a visit on a school day to see the young craftsmen and women at work.
The next time we visited was on a Saturday. As we went from class to class, we saw different subjects being taught to students alongside many useful skills. It was endearing that both students and teachers seemed to enjoy their day-to-day schedules. Girls were taught how to weave reusable bags promoting sustainability. A group of students were learning ornate calligraphy, and others were making small jewelry boxes from wood using chisels and sanding tools.
After talking with some ostudents during their breaks, we learned that before coming to ASCRCO, many of these students had to beg for food on the streets earning only 200 Afghanis (around $4 USD) a day; on their own and on the streets, school tuition was out of their reach. To establish the school sustainably, ASCRCO had to engineer a way to pay these children that would also give them useful skills so that they never need to return to begging in the streets. So, they gave them crafting and art producing skills so that the goods they produced could be sold in return for their wages. This school, with its dedicated ideal to keep children out of poverty, was a logical choice for Aseel to partner with. Over the next few weeks, our team discussed how we can support the school and its children, wanting to partner with them as well as understand the complex issues revolving around quality of products, child labor, trust building, and sustainability.
We at Aseel are still in the process of figuring out the potential ways this school’s model could offer for poverty alleviation in Afghanistan. But to start, we will be working with them to produce high quality, hand-carved jewelry boxes shipped free of cost with jewelry purchased from Aseel. Also, some of the children’s artwork and calligraphy is available with limited stock. Moving forward, we will find other ways to incorporate ASCSRO and its hard-working children into the Aseel family.