Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q: Who are the Rahela Scholars?
A: Rahela Scholars are exceptional female students, who are committed to their own and other women’s education, and who study at institutes of higher education inside Afghanistan. They come from poor and vulnerable backgrounds. For 2016, the RT has been able to fund five Rahela Scholars.
Q: What is the situation of higher education in Afghanistan?
A: There are 126 institutes of higher education in Afghanistan, of which 31 are State and 95 are private. There are universities in most provinces. Many private universities have questionable academic standards – being set up for ideological and religious reasons. In addition, many do not have adequate space or libraries. State universities have more than 147,000 pupils nationwide but have problems attracting young professional staff, and bear issues around treatment of women. The Afghan budget for state education is less than £400 per pupil per year.
Q: What is the situation of women going to university in Afghanistan?
A: There are probably around 1 million girls of university age in Afghanistan. Approximately 50,000 or 25% of all higher education students are female – more or less spread equally between state and private universities. Challenges faced include lack of places in university hostels for women; sexual harassment by male staff and students; pressure to only study financially viable topics; pressure to marry and have children; elite capture of university places, scholarships and professional positions; lack of female staff at universities, particularly in the south.
Q: What do women study at University?
At private universities, mostly economics, language, business, political science, engineering and law are taught. At state universities the topics are much broader. In 2014-15, an approximate average of women in state universities studied the following:
- 50% in science, education/psychology, dentistry and nursing faculties;
- 30% in literature, pharmacy, social sciences faculties;
- 20% in law, economy, sports, veterinary science, arts, theology, education faculties;
- 10% in management, policy, geology, journalism faculties;
- 5% in engineering, agriculture, construction, mining, chemistry, IT faculties.
- 0 in the trade and management faculty.
Q: What sets the Rahela Scholarships apart from others?
A: When it concerns Afghanistan, most scholarships are granted for Masters’ degrees, are for Afghans to study abroad, and are granted to men. There are more than 2000 scholarships for study outside of Afghanistan but less than 300 scholarships for undergraduate students studying in Afghanistan. As well as supporting exceptional female students from poor backgrounds, we place priority on students who have a strong commitment to women’s rights. Furthermore, we will provide additional counseling to the Rahela Scholars as they progress from education to careers, creating a network of scholars who support each other and future scholars.
Q: Do you intend to engage with more academic institutions?
A: Due to limited funds, the RT is starting small by partnering with the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), Kabul. This is a well-established university with strong pro-women credentials – it is named after a woman, founded by a woman, and has women’s studies courses. Once fundraising has increased, we intend to partner with other universities of repute, including outside of Kabul. If possible, we would eventually like to find ways to support female students at state universities.
Q: How do you ensure that donations are spent properly?
A: To date, over 90% of funds raised by the RT have been allocated directly to scholars. Running expenses are supported by volunteer work, charitable events such as networking lunches, and sale of handicrafts. We have coordinators at the partner university in Kabul, who undertake administration without payment. We have an agreement with partners in Afghanistan which includes a clause to request to see financial statements. Our trustees include seasoned development professionals, most of whom have many years of experience working on gender equality issues in Afghanistan.
Q: What does RT currently need in order to take its mission forward?
A: We need a greater range of skilled people – particularly trustees and volunteers with backgrounds in academia and in fund-raising. We would like to have a staff member in Afghanistan who can widen our network of universities, as well as provide support to Rahela Scholars. Eventually, we would like to have some permanent staff in the UK as well. For this we need to grow our financial base and fundraising capabilities.