Sakena Yacoobi, known as Afghanistan’s “mother of education,” at one point ran 80 underground schools in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Yacoobi’s non-profit organization, the Afghanistan Institute of Learning (AIL), currently runs 44 learning centers for women and children, four private high schools, four clinics, a hospital, and a radio station, but Yacoobi worries that the Taliban’s recent resurgence as well as waning international focus on Afghanistan threaten her efforts.
Of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, AIL is only able to operate in 13 due to security risks. Yacoobi, who studied in the United States as a refugee in the 1980s, moved to Pakistan and founded her first school in a refugee camp there in 1991. “The issue was education for me,” says Yacoobi, “because education changed my life.”
Within two years of starting the school, Yacoobi found herself managing classes for 15,000 refugee children in Pakistan, and in 1995 Yacoobi founded the AIL to support underground schools operating in secret throughout the country. Yacoobi, who hopes to one day open a university and launch a TV station to promote women’s rights and education, believes that things will change for the better in Afghanistan, and that education will be at the heart of it.
Earlier this month, Yacoobi was the recipient of a $500,000 education prize, presented by the Qatar Foundation.
Read the full story at The National Post.