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        What Tomorrow Brings | Lesson Plan: Educating Girls in Afghanistan: Potential, Power and Promise

        The video clips provided in this lesson are from What Tomorrow Brings, a film about the first girls’ school in a small Afghan village where education goes far beyond the classroom as the students discover the differences between the lives they were born into and the lives they dream of leading.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students look closely at the state of girls’ education in Afghanistan to identify and reflect on the myriad factors that impede girls’ educational advancement and have impact on their role in society overall. In this study, students also compare their educational experiences with those of Afghan girls.

        The video clips provided in this lesson are from What Tomorrow Brings, a film about the first girls’ school in a small Afghan village where education goes far beyond the classroom as the students discover the differences between the lives they were born into and the lives they dream of leading.

        Time Allotment

        One 50-minute class period, plus homework.

        Learning Objectives

        Compare and contrast U.S. and Afghan girls’ educational opportunities; Name some of the social, political and economic benefits educated girls can bring to Afghanistan (and/or other developing nations)


        Film clips from What Tomorrow Brings and equipment on which to show them.

        Introductory Activity

        Step 1

        Start by asking students to work in pairs to discuss and list the educational opportunities available to students in the United States. They can begin with their experiences and/or reflect on specific categories, including educational requirements (compulsory education); access to education for all genders, races and ethnicities; benefits of education; transportation to and from school; availability of resources (computers, books); and community support of education.

        Learning Activities

        Step 2

        Invite each group to post and present its list. Have the class review and present a basic analysis of the various listings and note, in short, how education in the United States can present numerous opportunities. (NOTE: Some findings might include inequities and challenges in the U.S. educational system, which students can revisit after they watch segments of What Tomorrow Brings.)

        Step 3

        Ask students whether education around the world offers youth the same benefits/opportunities as education in the United States does. Students are likely to note that in some nations educational systems have a variety of deficits. Briefly discuss with them why this might be the case, and then focus the discussion on what they know about how schools function in Afghanistan.

        Step 4

        Point to what students shared to introduce What Tomorrow Brings. Let students know that they are going to view clips from the film, which is about the Zabuli Education Center, the first girls’ school in a small Afghan village. Tell students to think about the various educational opportunities they noted earlier as they watch Clips 1–4.

        Step 5

        Have students discuss the clips using some or all of the following prompts. You can pick and choose from the prompts below to fit the level of your class (whether younger students in middle school or advanced high school students) and how much time you have.

        Note: Many of these prompts come from the What Tomorrow Brings Educational Guide developed by the HotDocs Docs For Schools program. For additional prompts and lesson activity ideas, download the full guide at:

        • What about the clips resonated with you? 
        • Does anything you viewed in the clips remind you of your own experiences? What are the differences and/or similarities? 
        • What similarities and/or differences do you notice between how the young women in the film act and how you and your peers act? How about the teachers? Do any of the students or teachers remind you of your own peers or teachers? In what ways? 
        • What are the different issues and themes that surface in this film? 
        • What social and traditional obstacles and restrictions do the women in the film face, and why? 
        • What are women’s expected roles in Afghanistan? How do the women in the film react to these expectations? 
        • Why are there increasing fears for girls’ schools in Afghanistan, and what type of attacks have been made against these schools? 
        • What influence do the teachers at the school have on the students, and how do they support their dreams? 
        • For those girls in the film who do have some educational opportunities, what is the ultimate benefit of those opportunities in their lives, beyond school? What do girls' futures say about the status/quality of their educational experiences overall? Is an education enough to guarantee that they’ll develop the skills and have opportunities for lifelong educational and professional success? 
        • How do the educational rights and freedoms of the girls in Afghanistan differ from your rights and freedoms? (Reflect on your earlier thoughts about education in the United States. Include any challenges or inequities to compare and contrast.)
        • How would education ultimately benefit not only girls, but also Afghanistan at large (economically, politically, socially)?

        Culminating Activity

        Step 6

        Have students think about what it would take to transform perceptions of and access to education for girls in Afghanistan. Tell them they will present their ideas in the form of newspaper editorials or op-eds. Instruct them to map out strategies and arguments that they will use to write the editorials for homework.

        Homework: Assign students to write the first drafts of their editorials or op-eds. For advanced classes (and if time permits), students might conduct additional research to learn about strategies in other nations that have bolstered girls’ educational opportunities and the social, economic and political impact those opportunities have had. If you have time, the editorials can also be compiled and reviewed by the class to identify the various viewpoints and select those that could potentially be activated in Afghanistan's current climate.



        1. International Status of Girls' Education

        Have students examine the state of girls’ education in countries around the world to determine how various nations approach education for girls, where policies and practices have supported girls’ educational advancement and ongoing success and why some nations struggle with educating girls. Student groups can select one or two countries to examine. Break students into groups to identify those countries that have effectively worked toward achieving Target 3.A of the third United Nations Millennium Development Goals ( “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.” Then have groups present and compare and contrast their findings. The following sites provide helpful information:

        2. Over the Years: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

        Work with students to research the evolution of women’s rights in Afghanistan over the last century, with a specific eye toward major changes and their causes. Given this timeline, students should also reflect on the shape of women’s rights in the nation in the future.

        The following timeline from the PBS series Women, War & Peace can jumpstart students’ research and thinking: “Timeline of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan” 

        3. The Impact of Educating Girls

        Invite students, individually or in groups, to brainstorm the impact educating girls has on the individual, family, community and global level. Have students examine the following USAID infographic: "An Educated Girl Has a Ripple Effect in Her Family, Community and Country"

        Either in class or as homework, have students create written or visual reflections on the impact of educating girls. These can be in the form of essays, poems, fiction or nonfiction pieces, songs, photographs, paintings, drawings or work in other mediums. Students can choose the medium that best suits their messages.

        4. Deep Dive Into What Tomorrow Brings

        Screen the full film for students and use the HotDocs comprehensive teacher’s guide, which includes pre- and post-viewing activities, discussion prompts, quotes from the film to explore, culminating activity ideas and more. Download the PDF.



        POV Resources

        POV: What Tomorrow Brings - - The POV site has many features, including an interview with the filmmakers, a general discussion guide with additional information, resources and activity ideas, a reading list of suggested books and more.

        POV: Media Literacy Questions for Analyzing POV Films - - This list of questions provides a useful starting point for leading rich discussions that challenge students to think critically about documentaries.

        Film Related Websites

        What Tomorrow Brings

        The film’s official website offers information about the film and ways to get involved.

        HotDocs Docs for SchoolsWhat Tomorrow Brings Teacher’s Guide 

        This is a comprehensive viewing guide for use in the classroom, with pre- and post-viewing activities, discussion prompts, quotes from the film to explore, culminating activity ideas and more.

        Principle Pictures

        The production company website provides information on the film and notes from the journal the filmmaker kept while in Afghanistan.

        Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation 

        The website for Razia Jan’s foundation offers information on the Zabuli Education Center and ways to support the effort to educate Afghanistan’s girls.

        Articles and Information About Girls’ Education

        Amnesty International: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

        Brookings: “Expanding and Improving the Quality of Girls’ Education in Afghanistan” 

        CNN: “Acid Attacks, Poison: What Afghan Girls Risk by Going to School” 

        The GroundTruth Project: GroundTruth Podcast, Episode 4: “The Fight for Afghanistan’s Girls” 

        Malala Fund: Girls’ Education 

        Marie Claire: These Girls in Afghanistan Have Written Letters Begging to Go to College

        NPR: “#15Girls: Teens Taking Control and Changing Their Fate” 

        NPR: “Where Are They Now? Our #15Girls, A Year Later”

        United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: “Education and Healthcare at Risk: Key Trends and Incidents Affecting Children’s Access to Healthcare and Education in Afghanistan”

        UN Women: “In the Midst of War, a Women’s Rights Warrior” 

        United States Institute of Peace: “Education in Afghanistan: Then and Now”

        USAID: “Afghanistan: Education” 

        Yes! Magazine: “In a Place Where Teaching Girls Can Get You Poisoned, This Afghan Woman Got Men on Her Side”


        Global Partnership for Education 

        The Global Partnership for Education makes the case for the right of every child to receive an education; for resources related specifically to girls’ education, see

        Let Girls Learn

        Let Girls Learn is a United States government initiative designed to ensure that adolescent girls get the education they deserve.

        No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project

        This project uses a data-driven approach to gender equality.

        Too Young to Wed

        Too Young to Wed is a multimedia partnership between the United Nations Population Fund and premier photo agency VII and seeks to raise awareness of the practice of child marriage.

        United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI)

        UNGEI strives to promote girls’ education and gender equality through policy advocacy and support to governments and other development actors to deliver on gender- and education-related sustainable development goals.


        USAID is a U.S. government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. Its education programs work to reduce barriers to education for children around the world.

        Women’s Global Education Project

        This organization offers a summary of the benefits of educating girls on its website.


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