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Inside a ‘Dream Factory’ for girls in Afghanistan

Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 12:54

Silhouettes in black darted behind covers as I entered the massive iron gate of the Aimaq Girls High school in Kwaja-do-ko district of Jawzjan last week. The sudden sight of four men entering their sanctum with a kariji (foreigner) must have bewildered the girls. Quietness dawned upon the place. “I think we have upset these girls”, I said aloud. My colleague Shams, officer in charge of our Local Rights Program smiled and replied, “I don’t know of other schools that will allow men inside. But this village has progressed considerably. You need not worry.”

 
File 8222Aimaq Girls' High School
I looked around the spacious compound. Couple of swings and slides in bright blue color adorned the otherwise brown and muddy hue. My surprise at having found a basket ball post and a volley ball court attracted a quick quip from my colleague, “The basket ball and volley ball facilities were given by ActionAid”.

 

The closed walls of this school offered the girls a safe and protected environment to be themselves and enjoy a sense of freedom they are otherwise denied by the world outside.We were led to the library, yet another facility provided by ActionAid to the school. I could not but appreciate the neatly staked books and labeled racks. Extending warm greetings to the visitors, the pleasing persona of Sohaila Rasouli, Head Teacher of the school, narrated its history. “This was originally a primary school that was closed during Taliban era. The school was reopened in 2002 and gradually became a secondary and then a higher secondary school for girls. It is the only school of its kind in this district.”

File 8214“Today, we have 1800 girls studying here from class 1 to class 12. In last two years, 40 girls have graduated out of class 12. Eight of them are continuing their studies, dreaming of become teachers themselves. What I am offering them is courage to dream and an opportunity to pursue them”.

Talking to women in Afghanistan never ceases to inspire me. Sohaila is teaching for past 11 years. Before Taliban, she was running a clandestine school for girls at home. “110 young girls came to learn from me. I was lucky to have escaped from the roving eyes of Taliban. If caught, I would have been killed. Luckily, I had a father who believed that girls should not be denied of education. He was my inspiration.” Today, she is living her dream despite the fact that her husband abandoned her because she could not bear children, “So what, I have 1800 children today and I am proud of them.” Glean in her eyes were genuine, as she looked around and affectionately dismissed couple of curious girls peeping through the windows. “Still, I find that this school and its facilities are not sufficient. I do not have enough class rooms. If I had, I could bring at least one thousand more girls to my school.  

Girls will come forward if we ensure access to education through more schools and female teachers. People’s attitude will also change when they find the benefits of having educated women in the society.

 

File 8218Facultative course for girls

As we walked across to the classroom where a facultative course provided by ActionAid was being on, I could not stop asking the question that I have asked many a woman in recent times “What do you think about the troops’ withdrawal? Will you be safe? What will you do if Taliban comes back?”

 

Sahaila’s hands instantly covered her ears as if it was blasphemy, “Allah will protect us. Taliban will not and cannot come back!” Despite the optimism, a tinge of fear persists deep in her heart!

An hour later, the girls warmed up to us. They spoke their minds and even smiled to the camera. Within the walls of the school, the girls were so free, courageous and open. It was their world, a world that offered them hope for a better tomorrow.