The WISE Prize for Education

2015 WISE Prize for Education - Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

2015 WISE Prize for Education - Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi Awarded the 2015 WISE Prize for Education.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser presented the WISE Prize for Education to Dr. Sakena Yacoobi at the seventh World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, Qatar on November 4, 2015.

On receiving the WISE Prize for Education, Dr. Yacoobi said, “I feel honored and blessed to be chosen as this year’s WISE Prize for Education Laureate. It is particularly meaningful because this is such a crucial time in Afghanistan. My people live in terror and poverty. They are suffering and feel hopeless. Yet, at this moment a light has appeared. With this Prize, we know that we can continue to educate more and more Afghans, giving them hope and encouraging them to go forward no matter what they are facing. It is such a great gift to me, and I dedicate the Prize to the Afghan Institute of Learning and all of the women, men and children we are educating.”

For Dr. Yacoobi, it’s education and not guns that can transform society. She believes that a community-based, holistic approach is key to fostering a respectful environment, creating economic opportunities and promoting healthcare for all.

Fondly known as Afghanistan’s mother of education, 65-year-old Yacoobi has spent the past two decades working persistently to rebuild her country’s educational landscape, devastated by decades of war.

It all began in the early nineties, when Sakena Yacoobi started working in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. A passionate educator herself, she trained teachers, opened schools for children, and learning centers for women. The Taliban rule in the mid-1990s did not deter Dr. Yacoobi from her mission to provide education and health services to women and children, especially girls. She launched the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 to carry on this work. Her primary objective was to improve and innovate teacher training. AIL’s teacher training programs focus on quality, in-depth education to Afghan teachers in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once teachers are trained in the pedagogical basics of teaching, AIL offers workshops to allow them to go deeper in a bid to strengthen their teaching skills.

When the Taliban banned girls’ education in the nineties, AIL supported underground home schools for 3,000 girls across the country. It was also the first organization to open learning centers for women in the country and continues to constantly innovate to provide literacy and vocational skills to girls and women.

Under her leadership, AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level to empower women and communities. This bottom up approach in education has triggered a lasting local transformation. Since its establishment, AIL has brought education and health services to at least 12 million beneficiaries living in rural and marginalized areas of Afghanistan.

More recently, Dr. Yacoobi opened private schools under her own name to provide high quality affordable education. She also set up a radio station, to deliver her institute’s educational content to people living in remote areas. Her future plans also include the creation of a television network and a university for women.

“My vision for Afghanistan is a free country, a society where everybody is educated. Every single girl must be educated in Afghanistan - that is my dream. I don’t have a small dream. My vision is big, has been big and is going to be big, constantly. And I think that there is going to be a day that this country will rise up, and I am looking for that day,” says Dr. Yacoobi.

Watch the Special Address


WISE Prize - Jury Members

Dr. Madhav Chavan
President of Pratham Education

Hon. Ms Julia Gillard
Former Prime Minister
Dr. Michèle Pierre-Louis
Former Prime Minister
Prof Tan Oon Seng
Director of the National Institute of Education
Ms Androulla Vassiliou
Former European Commissioner
for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

WISE Prize Committee

Dr. Hassan R. Al-Derham,
Prof. Kai Ming Cheng,
Dr. Claudia Costin,
Dr. Stefanos Gialamas,
Dr. Allan Goodman,
United States of America
maryjoypigozziwise.jpgDr. Mary Joy Pigozzi,
Mr. Asif Saleh,