For the vast majority of schools in Canada, chairs, desks and a place to go to the bathroom are things we take for granted.

It’s a different story in a number of vulnerable Afghanistan communities. Among the many obstacles preventing children, especially girls, from getting an education is poor school infrastructure—inadequate classrooms and a lack of furniture and proper sanitation facilities.

Attending school in an open field or broken down building isn’t just uncomfortable for students, there are health and security issues associated. Parents don’t want their children to attend a school without protective walls. Older female students are often forced to drop out of schools that don’t have bathrooms. The result is a troubling gap between school enrolment and attendance—many girls who are enrolled are unable to complete their education.

Third-grade student Amina once dreaded the long hours spent sitting on the hard, dusty floor as she tried to concentrate on her lessons.

“It was never a pleasure or easy,” she recalls. “My mother had to put in extra effort to wash my uniform every other day, simply because it got too dusty.”

Grade 3 students at the Qalai Merza Girls School in Afghanistan using the new mats. Photo: CWSA

Today, there is little trace of Amina’s unease. Her school has received a shipment of new plastic mats to pad the classroom floor, with support from PWS&D’s girls education program, which is working to improve the cleanliness and safety of remote classroom facilities.

Amina’s reaction is a testament to just how important the gift is. “I’ve found out that we have been given mats to sit on during class, and I am very happy.”

Amina shares her excitement with 4,500 other female students in the region who are benefiting from the project.

Through the project, families are more comfortable sending their children to school and students themselves are motivated and engaged as they learn, out of the wind, rain, dust and grime and with access to the facilities they need.

“We have been given new plastic mats to sit on during class and all of us are very happy to sit on clean mats and not worry about our uniforms getting dirty,” a student shares. Photo: CWSA

Amina’s not the only one rushing to school early in excitement. “I see that girls are already filling up all the space on the mats because they look forward to it just as much as I do.”

Support the project that is helping girls like Amina feel safe and comfortable as they complete their education and start building a secure economic future.