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OFARIN's lessons

Dear friends!

Here is an overview of our lessons. Some of you will be surprised, because OFARIN's classes are not always like the school you once went to or the school your children go to. You would therefore like to ask questions. But if we allow them and try to answer them, it would take forever to create the overview of "OFARIN's lessons" that this first section aims to provide. But since I am writing and not lecturing, I am not giving you the opportunity to ask. I will ask you myself and give you a hint as to where you can look to find an answer to my intermediate question – in square brackets.

OFARIN's teaching program was created in 1998/1999, when the "old Taliban" ruled over most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Since 2001, it has been run by our association OFARIN, which was founded in Germany in 1996 and is recognized as a non-profit organization - i.e. it is allowed to issue donation receipts. OFARIN has been registered as an international aid organization (NGO) with the Afghan authorities - formerly with the Ministry of Planning, now with the Ministry of Economy - since 1998. The program was initially supported by the German Caritas Association and the US Catholic Relief Services, later by the episcopal aid organization Misereor. Since 2018, OFARIN has been financed solely by private donations.

Until 2023, OFARIN only ran the teaching program we are talking about here. Since then, we have also turned our attention to other areas, such as reforestation and help for pregnant women and women who have recently given birth. [You can find more about this now or soon on this homepage]. 

OFARIN's classes have been attended by around 4,000 pupils since 2001. Among the pupils were and are also adult women, most of whom have not attended state school and want to learn to read and write with us. Classes are and have been held in mosques and in private homes (often of the teachers), now also in rented properties, sometimes in garages.

OFARIN's lessons last only 90 minutes a day for each class. ["Why is that?" – See: "The status of OFARIN's lessons"!] Of the 90 minutes, 30 minutes are reserved for Islamic religious education. These lessons are taught by our teachers, but supervised by mullahs from the mosques where we work. It is similar to religious education in state schools. In OFARIN's actual lessons, children are taught to read and write in their mother tongue (Alphabetization). In addition, basic arithmetic operations within natural numbers (with 0) are taught. This leads to the written division of seven-digit numbers by three- or four-digit numbers, but with remainders, as we have not yet progressed to fractions and decimal fractions. There are also exercises in plane geometry (e.g. constructing the inner and outer circles of a triangle).

Alphabetization is taught very thoroughly and somewhat schematically. Here the pupils actually learn to read and understand what they read – and so do most of the teachers. ["Excuse me! That really needs to be explained." – This will be done in the section "The teaching staff"]. In the early years, our math lessons didn't work very well. We started teaching numeracy at the same time as alphabetization. We wrote a book for the teachers to use to teach arithmetic. The pupils couldn't read yet. The teacher had to teach the arithmetic lessons orally. In some mosques, more than ten classes are taught at the same time. There, it is already an acoustic problem for the teacher to make themselves understood. But we were also never sure whether our semi-skilled teacher ["What?" – see again "The teaching staff"!] understood the material in our book correctly. And even if he had understood everything well, he may have expressed himself poorly and the students did not understand the teacher. Imagine a text task with "if then" and "if not then not"! The teacher has to formulate it correctly so that the pupils know what to do! We despaired and wanted to give up.

Just in time, we saw the light: We couldn't leave the poor semi-skilled teacher to teach the material on his own. A textbook in which the students could read everything correctly had to supplement the teacher. Then he only had to say: "Please read task 5b and solve it!" However, the prerequisite was that the students could already read and write. We changed the whole lesson. At first, only alphabetization is taught - in addition to religious instruction. Only when the class can read and write the math lessons begin, based on a student textbook that all pupils receive. Now the pupils can solve the problems themselves. But, who decides whether the solutions that the pupils have found are correct? And who explains the solution so that all pupils understand it? The teacher still has to do this. To this end, we enriched the student textbook with suggested solutions to a teacher's textbook.

This change made a difference. The students enthusiastically threw themselves into crisp text tasks that we had not been able to give them before. The changeover was a collective success for OFARIN's students, teachers, trainers and management. ["Excuse me! What are trainers again?"- You can find out in "The teaching staff"].

Only slowly did we realize that the basic things we were teaching our students were not being learned in state schools or in the private schools that are allowed in Afghanistan, not even in twelve school years of five or six hours a day. ["That's hard to believe. It needs to be explained." – See: "State schools in Afghanistan"]. Of course, OFARIN's students, teachers and trainers were happy to identify with a school that teaches more and better than state schools. The principles on which OFARIN's school program is based certainly also play a role in the popularity of our teaching. [See: "The principles of OFARIN's teaching"!]

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