Skoll Foundation


Afghan Institute of Learning

Skoll Awardee(s): Sakena Yacoobi
Award Year: 2006
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Education, Health, Peace and Human Rights

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“I believe that all people are capable of finding and implementing solutions to challenges they face, no matter how poor they are, no matter how uneducated they are, no matter what they have lived through. I envision a peaceful future for Afghanistan, where every man, woman, and child knows how to read and has access to high-quality family health care.”

Sub-Issues: Early Childhood to Primary Education; Health Delivery; Peace; Women and Girls Education 30 years of warfare have destroyed Afghan family service systems and educational infrastructure. More than 85 percent of Afghan women are illiterate.

The Skoll Awardee: Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi came to the United States in the 1970s to earn degrees in public health. She worked as a health consultant at D’Etre University in Michigan, and then for the International Rescue Committee in Pakistan, increasing the number of Afghan refugee girls enrolled in IRC-supported schools from 3,000 to 15,000. She also served on the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief delegation of the United Nations, as well as on the United Nations Rehabilitation Plan for Afghanistan. During the mid-1990s, funding for education and health programs in Afghanistan was cut dramatically as a result of the Taliban’s grip on power. Determined to keep education and health programs going, despite the Taliban’s opposition, she founded Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995. AIL reaches communities through a network of Women’s Learning Centers (WLCs) and Educational Learning Centers (ELCs). WLCs are comprehensive health and education service centers designed to meet multiple needs of Afghan women, such as reproductive and early childhood health. ELCs are building Afghanistan’s educational infrastructure by providing teacher training, administrative support and school materials and supplies to thousands of young Afghan students. At the time of the Award, AIL had trained 10,000 teachers and was providing health services and education to more than 350,000 women and children every year.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2006:

  • Trained 21,364 teachers serving more than 3 million students.
  • More than 10,000 people trained in health workshops in 11 provinces.
  • 95 percent of participants in leadership workshops practiced leadership in their own communities as a result.
  • 332 ELCs providing education to 400,000 women and children each year. These centers have been replicated by others across Afghanistan, reaching populations with no prior access to education, teaching literacy, computers, math, and sewing.
  • AIL operates a hospital in Heart, treating 2,000 patients per month.




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