04/26/2018 by Carney Sandoe Staff | Conferences
All About SOLA
Earlier this month, we announced Shabana Basij-Rasikh, President and Co-founder of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), as the keynote speaker at our second-annual Women’s Institute to be held on June 8 in Boston.
With the institute just over a month away, let’s take a closer look at SOLA and its incredible contributions towards educating young women in Afghanistan.
The School of Leadership Afghanistan is an Afghan-led private boarding school for girls, the first of its kind in Afghanistan. SOLA’s mission is to provide Afghan girls a rigorous education that promotes critical thinking, a sense of purpose, and respect for self and others. The school is a recognized pioneer in education that prepares Afghan girls from diverse backgrounds to become compassionate, curious, and confident women leading a peaceful, prosperous, and united Afghanistan.
The School’s History
SOLA, which is a Pashto word meaning “peace,” seeks to represent all major ethnic groups and provinces of Afghanistan. Shabana co-founded SOLA in 2008—while still in college—with four students and a small rented house. While initially operating as a scholarship program for study-abroad opportunities in the U.S. and elsewhere, SOLA intensified its efforts at bringing high-quality education to Afghan girls by opening a nationally registered school in Kabul and enrolling its first 6th grade class of 12 residential students in 2016. In 2015, SOLA became a formally-registered school with Afghan Ministries. A new SOLA campus opened in 2016 in Kabul, and in 2017 enrollment expanded to grades 6 and 7. Today, the school enrolls 70 students. A formal academic and residential curriculum is offered for girls in grades 6-8, and a residential-only program is available for high school students. To date, SOLA students have hailed from 23 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Boarding students at SOLA attend one of two distinct programs: the middle school or the high school residential program. The middle school, for girls in grades 6-8, follows the Afghan national curriculum with supplementary enrichment coursework. The high school program consists of a residential life curriculum and academic enrichment course work. High school students pursue their diplomas at a local public school, while serving as “big sisters” to younger students and taking on leadership roles within SOLA’s residential life program. Both middle and high school students take daily English classes taught remotely by native-speaking international faculty. Enrichment study is offered daily in the physical sciences, poetry, environmental science, art, entrepreneurship, current events, world history, and literature. Students’ academic study is supplemented with leadership training, civic engagement, and skills-based classes that prepare them to excel at institutions of higher education and in life outside of school.
SOLA also supports a study abroad program, with 23 SOLA students attending high school and/or college outside of Afghanistan. They receive full tuition assistance from their respective host schools in locations including Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, the U.K., and the United States. Since 2008, more than 45 SOLA alumni have received more than 194 years of scholarships valued at more than $9.4 million.
The School’s Future
Looking ahead, SOLA plans to operate an internationally recognized boarding school of 175 students in grades 6-12, representing all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, by 2022. This includes the construction of a permanent campus in central Kabul with state-of-the-art security and educational and residential facilities for students and faculty.
Hear More on Shabana’s Journey with SOLA
This past March, Shabana was presented with the Malalai Medal by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and First Lady Rula Ghani. The medal, named for female national folk hero, is awarded for high achievement in the advancement of women’s rights. It is among Afghanistan’s highest awards for citizens of Afghanistan and foreign countries.
After learning more about Shabana’s vision for SOLA and its tremendous growth in such a short period of time, we are even more excited to welcome her at our Women’s Institute. Her passion for helping to form a new generation of smart and savvy women who are prepared to advance their war-torn country forward is truly inspiring, and we look forward to Shabana’s keynote address.
The Institute sold out last year, so reserve your spot today. Learn more and register now. Session topics and honorary faculty members were just announced, and spots are filling quickly!
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