At only 23-years-old, freelance journalist Jeffrey Stern arrived in Afghanistan to cover the conflict in the region for several U.S. publications.
During his time on the ground there, he also became involved in the country’s education system. He co-authored a business proposal to help Afghan women start or expand their businesses, which became the first Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative. The program eventually provided training to over 300 Afghan women.
But that was just the beginning for Stern as he discovered Marefat High School, a progressive, community-run, pro-women’s rights institution that has grown into one of the country’s most successful schools. It offers a unique co-educational system, teaching both boys and girls.
It’s at that school where Stern’s book, The Last Thousand: One School’s Promise in a Nation of War, is set. Stern describes the school as an oasis in a troubled neighborhood in Western Kabul.
“It’s kind of a slum. It’s very crowded. It’s a desert,” Stern explained. “And then in the middle of it there’s this place where you’ve got happy boys and girls running around and laughing and playing and going into class and being told things like this, ‘you’re gonna be president one day.’”
A School Changing Women’s Lives in Afghanistan Part IMike Walter and author Jeffrey Stern discuss Marefat, a successful pro-women’s rights school in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Mike Walter sat down with Jeffrey Stern in our Washington, DC studio where he spoke about the inspiration he found in an unlikely corner of Kabul. Nahid Paiman, a former student at Marefat also joined the conversation, sharing how her experience as a female student at Marefat changed her life forever.
“Marefat was a very special school. I learned lessons there that I would not get from anywhere else,” said Paiman. “We had classes like democracy, human rights [and] philosophy.”