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Rev 2013 06 18 Rural Ghazni Women's Literacy Pilot


PROPOSAL (Please help us fund it!)

The Problem, The Opportunity In a small, poor village in rural Ghazni, Afghanistan, there are 34 adult women who have asked to be on a list. They are hoping to learn to read and write. They are illiterate. They are mothers, grandmothers, widows, and they are recently married young brides who never went to school, any school. Even as Afghanistan increases the number of girls in school from almost none in 2001 to over three million in the current year, these women and married girls have lost their opportunity to learn to read and write. They will never be able to join the seven and eight year old children learning to read in the village school a tent and four teachers recently provided to the village by UNESCO and the Afghanistan Ministry of Education. The classes, both girls and boys, are of grades one through seven, in all about a hundred village children. Until 2004 this village had no school whatsoever. It had no teacher, no book, no place or person dedicated to learning even the most fundamental skills of reading and writing. (The Koran of course was there, studied by the Mullah, in the archaic Arabic in which it was originally written, not in the local languages of Pashto or Dari (the Afghan dialect of Farsi/Persian). In this village since the school came, there have been some students who have finished seventh grade, and some who have gone on to eighth grade and high school in town, and a few, no more than twenty, who have attended college. None of these students were girls. One young man, the first from this village to attend Kabul University, and the first to complete his BA degree, graduated in 2011. He went on to work as a
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reporter and photo journalist for the BBC Persian Service. Now there is a chance for these illiterate women in this village to gain access to literacy, to learn to read and write, in a pilot project which, if successful, could blossom over the rural areas of Afghanistan (and other parts of the developing world) to combat the scourge of illiteracy. (A pilot has already been begun in an urban area, the Afghanistan city of Herat, see

Established & Familiar Technology: the cell phone This project is based on interactive software which has been created in Dari and Pashto by Mike Dawson, head of Paiwastoon Network Services in Kabul, and his team of young Afghan programmers, to teach literacy to adults on the Nokia-style small cell telephone. The cell phone is almost ubiquitous in Afghanistan, with an estimated 58% of the population having access to a cell phone and the ability to keep it charged (despite very limited electricity service). This Nokia-type telephone costs $US50 or less per unit in Afghanistan. The Paiwastoon literacy software was developed under a grant from the US Army division charged with improving the Afghan police. The standard qualification of being hired as a policeman was literacy at third grade level, but the American army advisors found that many, if not most, of the Afghans hired as police officers were functionally unable to read and write. Many were totally illiterate. This software was developed using free and open source software, in both Dari and Pashto. It begins with a voice explaining how to use it, how to write, while there is displayed on its little video screen a hand, writing one of the basic letters of the Dari or Pashto alphabet. (This alphabet is similar to Arabic, written from right to left, and allows for phonetic spelling of words and phrases.) Because this software is not proprietary, anyone with a cell phone can legally copy it to a memory chip, install it in the phone, and watch these videos. The chip can be bought for $US 4.50. The Nokia phone functions as a tiny computer (which it is), delivering distance learning video content

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from inside its own tiny memory chip. The memory chip can contain in addition all of the same books as are supplied by the Ministry of Education for children, plus many other books and articles. This is an amazing opportunity for these women. They have been organized to request the chance to learn to read and write by the illiterate mother of one of the young men from the village who has gone on to higher education. The Village Council, the local police, and the local Mullah are supportive of these women in their desire to learn to read and write. The local area security situation is better than in most parts of Southern Afghanistan. The Proposal What we want to do Each woman will be given the opportunity to receive a Nokia cell phone, which will have installed and tested on it the memory chip containing the software and videos. Having her own cell phone is a very important part of the protocol, as demonstrated for the past five years in the worldwide One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. She will have her learning device in her pocket as she draws water, cooks and cleans, tends her subsistence farm animals, nurses her baby and goes about her long, hard working day. It will give the opportunity to the woman-as-student to memorize the letters of the alphabet, and then to put them together in words and, eventually, to read. The proposal includes having, as a Mentor to the class of women, one woman with at least minimal literacy, that is, who can at least make a list of names and record receiving the testing questionnaires. There are now in the village some girls who graduated at seventh grade from the Ministry of Education school, one of whom could be hired to be the Mentor. The Mentor would work half a day, each day, and earn the going rate of up to $US 100 per month. The class would meet outdoors (funding or a donation might be found later for a tent like the school's tent), for the warm nine months of the year. (It would close, as does the Ministry of Education school, in the winter, because of the lack of heat.) In the class the Mentor would not lecture to the women but rather facilitate the opportunity for each of the women to study on her little cell phone, to ask questions of the Mentor and each other, and practice reading and writing. The software installed in the phones allows the tracking of the time of day and quantity of study

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use of the phone by its holder. Before a woman is given a phone, she will take a test of her literacy (if no literacy at all, just her name, written by the Mentor, and a note: no literacy). After three or six months, the same or a similar test will be administered. The women will work toward receiving a completion bonus, when they can achieve writing their own name, plus reading a simple text on health care, for example explaining the benefits of handwashing, and answering simple questions to show their understanding. The bonus, in the range of US $20, is sufficient to motivate the whole family to encourage the woman in her learning. And she can then graduate to another round of learning and keep the phone. Preparation of the phones with the memory chips, including downloading the software and inspection to avoid defective devices and chips, would be done in Kabul, at the offices of Paiwastoon. The Ghazni Mentor would come there also (a sometimes dangerous, but still possible, bus trip of about 90 miles), to be trained in how to care for the phones, how to charge them, when to call Paiwastoon for tech support via her own cell phone, and how the software works. Although the phones can be used as telephones by the installation of a SIM card as well as the memory chip, they will not be provided with one when distributed to the students. The cost to the project: of training the Mentor, preparation of the phones, electricity service, tech support, and monitoring and evaluation by Paiwastoon Network Services, will be included in the budget at a roughly estimated $US 3,160 for the year of nine months duration. With this cost, plus the cost of the equipment, 40 phones and 40 chips, approximately $US 55 each, plus $US 900 salary for the Mentor, approximately $US 640 in bonus payments for 32 students, plus three dollars per student per year for supplies of paper and pencils, the cost of this pilot will be about $US 7,000. Funds will be raised and administered by MTSA, a San Francisco based non-profit 501(c)(3) certified organization, Federal Tax ID No. 93-1048117, which has had experience previously in the deployment of Afghanistan's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. (See contact information and How to Support, at the end of this Proposal.)

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BUDGET for Rural Ghazni Women's Literacy Pilot

ITEM Nokia cell phones, 40 Memory chips, 40 Supplies, paper etc. 40

COST PER ITEM $US $US $US 50.00 4.50 3.00 3,160.00

TOTAL $US 2,000. $US $US 180. 120.

Paiwastoon services: installing $US chips, monitoring & evaluation, tech support, training, electricity, administration Mentor salary, 9 months Completion Bonus for 32 students TOTAL $US

$US 3,160.

$US 100. per month 20.00


900. 640.


Carol Ruth Silver Project Manager Mentors & Teachers Serving Afghanistan (MTSA) 415 861 5802 How to Support this Proposal: Mail your check to: MTSA, 68 Ramona Ave, San Francisco 94103 or look online for crowd sourcing donation opportunities for: Rural Ghazni Women's Literacy Pilot Endorsed and supported by: Paiwastoon Network Services LLC, Kabul & Dubai Mentors & Teachers Serving Afghanistan (MTSA) World Family Development and Educational Program, Inc. World Centre San Francisco, Inc. Carol Ruth Silver Family Trust

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