Shelter Now is looking for a larger building for its “Helping Hands School”

It is intended to become a model school for the new Afghanistan – the “Helping Hands School” in Kabul operated by the international Christian relief organization Shelter Now. All five teachers have now completed their additional training in the pedagogical concept “Active Participatory Learning”: In addition to reading, writing and math, the children should also be taught self-responsibility, curiosity, social and decision-making skills. This is “a small revolution” for Afghanistan, says German Shelter Now director Udo Stolte. Up to now, there has been almost exclusively frontal teaching: the teacher gives an example and all students repeat.

On March 21, the new school year began in Afghanistan and now the method is being used in all four elementary school classes. The teachers had already completed their first training two years ago and started teaching the first and second graders of the “Helping Hands School” using the new method. During the school year, the teachers continue to be supported by mentors who come to class. The concept was developed by a consulting institute and coordinated with guidelines of the Afghan Ministry of Education.

“Holistic learning is so much fun for girls and boys that the popularity of the school is spreading more and more,” says Stolte happily. Many parents wanted to register their children there: Instead of the 100 students currently enrolled, it would also be possible to enroll 200 – if the space was available, says the Shelter Now director. So far the children are taught in two classrooms in two shifts: one half in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

There is another reason why the “Helping Hands School” wants to move: For a consistent application of “Active Participatory Learning” more rooms are needed, also for work in small groups. You need a building that is specially constructed or converted for this purpose, as well as appropriate teaching and learning materials, says Stolte. The search for a new home for the school, which also includes a “pre-school” for children under the age of seven, is to begin in the spring.

Shelter Now took over the Helping Hands School from another organization in 2009. The school is also setting an example in education for peace: children from different ethnic groups such as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras or Uzbeks learn together here.