Despite the bitter cold of winter, hundreds of young people walk one hour or more along the snow-covered mountains of central Afghanistan to reach New Horizon’s community learning centre. They are determined to study, irrespective of the weather, the political uncertainties, or newly imposed restrictions. Over 60% percent of these students are female.

Over 700 students across 9 learning centres are enrolled in programmes offered by Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) in collaboration with Jesuit and mission-aligned universities. These include Learning Facilitator and eEducation Tools (in partnership with the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingoldstadt, Germany), Peace Leader (with Hekima University College, Kenya), Creative Writing and Design (with St Joseph’s College Bangalore, India), the BA in Sustainable Development (with XIM University, India), and the Global English Language programme (with Cambridge University Press & Assessment).

In early September 2021, when the world was still paralysed by the images from Kabul airport and the uncertainty about the new Taliban rulers, JWL students and members of New Horizon (student-based organisation) mustered their courage and spoke with the local community and new Taliban leadership. They asked for permission to reopen their learning centres, to reconnect the internet and resume the various study programmes offered by JWL in blended eLearning format. Since then, all but one centre have reopened and two additional ones were established.

Abdullah, a New Horizon English language facilitator, recalls those dramatic days. “I was in a condition of hopelessness at that time,” he told us. After a while, he and a colleague decided to face the Taliban in order to revive their learning centre. He was afraid and it seemed at one point that they would not succeed.

[…] First, they did not seem happy with it. I remember the word one of them told. He said, “Are girls and boys together in the classrooms?” “Yes,” I said. They told we have to enclose the issue with the Ministry of Education and asked me to visit them after another three days.

When I went to them again, they told me that my colleagues and I could start our activities. This time I have started working as a centre coordinator which put me in a more difficult situation[…]. There were too many limitations from the Government side but the support and encouragement from JWL staff and other colleagues helped me to be more confident.. […] I experienced how NH [New Horizon]/JWL programmes benefit the communities. In the most difficult days of our community when there was no other opportunity for many of our brothers and sisters to study, JWL through NH had made it possible for many students to study their bachelor’s online. I am one of the beneficiaries who studies BA SD [BA in Sustainable Development]. I am thanking all who made it possible for me.