Education is a Promise for a Better Future in Rural Afghanistan
September 10, 2013
Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan - A searing summer wind blasts the dusty crops and desert terrain surrounding the tiny school that lies behind a tidy brick wall shaded by apricot trees in Baba Kohna village of Dehdadi district near Mazar-e-Sharif, provincial center and an economic hub in northern Afghanistan.
Inside the school, principal Mohammad Sadiq Safi nurtures fertile ground. Plucking a rose from a lush garden that he has planted between eight busy classrooms, Safi says he cultivates the blooms, just as his teachers tend to their students.
“This can be a hard place,” he says of his home in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, where punishing winds blow so hard that clouds of dust hang high over the massive Alborz mountains spreading across the horizon. “The land and heat is tough for us all here, just as life can be. So, I have planted this garden to inspire my students, to show them what is possible if we try together,” says Safi.
The school is one of the few hundred schools in rural Afghanistan that have been built with financing from the National Solidarity Program (NSP) and run with support from the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). Both programs are funded by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank in Afghanistan. EQUIP II, a follow-on to an earlier similar program, is committed to increasing equitable access to quality basic education especially for girls as well as training teachers, strengthening institutional capacity and engaging communities in decision making about their schools.
Built in 2005, the school is named after a community elder, Ghulam Hazarat Khan, who donated the land for the school building. Currently, Ghulama Hazrat Khan Primary School is open in two shifts for 340 girls in the morning and 360 boys in the afternoon.
We are a happy village but the truth is without education, you can’t do so much.
A bright future
Creation of a school was the village’s first priority when residents were first offered support under NSP, which aims at strengthening rural infrastructure and development through community-owned projects. Villagers contributed their labor and a small amount to help build the school while NSP contributed about $50,000.
“People here want a bright future, but to them this does not mean electricity. To them, this means a school. It is the first thing they wanted, not electricity or anything else,” says Safi.
The school has been so successful that an addition for a small high school is now being built. Previously, many students could only study up to Grade 9, but the four new classrooms will help them complete their education, explains Safi.
Watching a noisy mixer ooze cement into laborers’ wheelbarrows, teacher Timor Shah Sanayee says he is proud of his community for insisting on a school. “Before the school, many of these children were working with their fathers, or just playing games, not studying at all,” says Sanayee, who teaches Arabic languages and Islamic studies.
Sanayee studied at a madrasa, but his son goes to this school that teaches science and languages. He looks forward to seeing his baby daughter attend the same school when she grows up. “This is just their own idea because Islam says education is very important for women and men, for everyone,” he says of those who don´t support education for girls.
People in the village agree that education can change their children´s lives. “You see we want all these children to be powerful, to make something with their lives. I’m not educated, but if I were, I could run for elections,” says a community elder Mohammad Hanif with a chortle. “We are a happy village but the truth is without education, you can’t do so much.”
In a classroom filled with boys in blue and grey uniforms, Sayed Pardiz, 11, says he will complete his high school education in the village school, and hopes to go to university. His father is a security officer at a local hospital and his mother never studied, he says. “But I want to be a judge, to help bring justice and solve my people’s problems,” says Pardiz. “I think this school will help me.”
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