The social/political context in which Green Village Schools and other NGOs do their work is important. On the United Nations Human Development Index (based on life expectancy at birth, adult literacy, school enrollment, and GDP per capita with a spending power adjustment) Afghanistan was ranked 168th out of 189 countries listed in 2017. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 64 years for both men and women. Infant mortality in 2011 was the highest in the world, among nations ranked, and children have close to a one in four chance of dying by age five. Maternal mortality in 2008 was the highest in the world. Literacy over the age of 15 years is about 50% for men and less than 25% for women nationally. In rural Afghanistan it is rare for women to read and write at all.
When we started the school in Shin Kalay, a village of 11,000 people in Helmand Province, none of the women in the village knew how to read and write. Schools are few and far between in this southern province outside of its capital, Lashkar Gah. In Shin Kalay GVS has offered a unique type of education that is local, coeducational, and free, with English added to the usual government curriculum. Over 2,500 students have been taught in the school. In Lashkar Gah, GVS operated an Advanced Education Center where English and Computer instruction was provided to 250 male and female students.
The geography of land-locked Afghanistan challenges rural inhabitants and NGO personnel working and traveling in the country. The Hindu Kush rises in the east to over 24,000 feet, large areas of desert dominate the landscape, and only 12% arable land supports agriculture. Winters are cold and dust storms are frequent. In the area around Lashkar Gah agriculture is supported by water from a dam on the Helmand River.