Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Irfan Ayub, the founder of Gul and Kalama Education Initiative (GKEI). Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Irfan! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Irfan: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! I am addressing the lack of access to quality education in Afghanistan, especially among girls, because they have been deprived of their right to an education.
Spiffy: How wonderful! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Irfan: I was an illegal refugee in Pakistan, and, in 2016, my family and I were deported back to Afghanistan. In Pakistan, my sisters and I had access to school and education. However, after going back to my village in Khost, Afghanistan, my sisters had no opportunity to go to school, as there was no school for girls. The schools that were available were for boys and were private, meaning people without money could not afford them. A lot of people also viewed education as harmful and preferred their kids to provide for the family by working in the fields.
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Irfan: My organization aims to provide education to every individual around the world regardless of their race, gender, or nationality. I teach them different school subjects and about their rights. I also show them how important education is to put an end to some of the most pressing issues that our society faces.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?
Irfan: After my evacuation from Afghanistan, it was hard for me to keep in touch with my students. I decided to buy internet packages for those who couldn’t afford to buy internet, so I could teach them online. I have about 20 students that attend my online classes as well as volunteers who teach them different subjects. Not only do these classes enable them to gain valuable knowledge, but it also shows that no matter what nobody can stop them from learning as it is their right. As Virginia Woolf stated, “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?
Irfan: In August 2021, the Taliban took over Afghanistan, and I was evacuated. My tutoring center had to be shut down, because it was a co-ed education center, and I lost everything I had worked on for three years. Despite this, I did not lose hope and made a plan to start teaching online. Due to the bad economic situation of the country, very few people have access to the internet and technology, but I still started as much as I could. I learned that persistence is the key to success, and I want to instill that in my students as well.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Irfan—it’s been an honor!
Irfan Ayub is a curious and ambitious boy from the cities of Khost and Kabul, Afghanistan. His early childhood began with realizing Plato’s allegory of the cave. He teaches kids, alongside his own learning journey, aiming to be the light of those in the dark and a support for the voiceless. Being an Afghan drives his passion for his goal, as Afghan children, youth, and women need light, voice, and support. Irfan works hard not only to quench his thirst for knowledge, but also to give back to the community. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 1, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.