Nadiha – Teaching Girls in Afghanistan

11 Mar

Being a woman in Afghanistan has never been easy. Afghanistan is a country of stark contrasts.  Beautiful and bountiful in parts, inaccessible unconquerable harsh mountains for the rest. A country where the cities and the provinces seem to belong to different worlds. And this is when it is at peace. Afghanistan has known little peace in its history, being the gateway to different civilisations and powers. Its passes control power – it seems. At least to those who play power as a game.


It is not a game for us teachers. Nadiha teaches girls in Afghanistan. In a war zone. She has it better than most do because her school is funded internationally. And has fewer students per teacher than most schools so each teacher can pay better attention to each student. She teaches in Kabul where safety is a concern but the provinces have it much worse – it is difficult to find teachers who are willing to go and teach in the interiors. If this is a challenge in most countries without war and trauma – consider the shades of meaning in the word impossible here. And yet there are some.



But there have been darker years. Years when teaching girls was banned. Boys could go to school but half of humanity was kept away from learning. A line drawn in the sand that could not be crossed. Because it was the law of the land. Nadiha did what she could. She opened a home school. Girls came home. She taught the Koran and more. And so these girls will not be left behind. When times changed, and a new government came into power they could start school again. But the school had been broken. They rebuilt the school. Got aid. Got training. And support. Nadiha herself has travelled to many countries to be trained as a teacher and school leader. Others are not so lucky. Nadiha’s students – all girls – benefit from the support received. But there are many others who have years of catching up to do.


Globally – and not just in Afghanistan – the world has realised that conflict zone education requires special attention. Conflicts now last more than a few months – they often last for decades. And there are many such zones even in peaceful countries like India. Others such as Syria, Palestine and now even Ukraine have entire generations denied an education. Without educated cohorts how can a nation pull itself out of a crisis? Who will rebuild for the future if they do not know enough? Teaching in a war zone is always difficult – one deals with fear, trauma, disruption and worse. War zone teaching requires special skills as does post war education. Nadiha is doing her bit in Afghanistan. Even as I write this, I am conscious of the little note that says – there are no pictures of Nadiha available this time because it is not that safe. That note says more than Nadiha ever can.


But the region has an even bigger hurdle. Girl education is not seen as a priority. Very gently, Nadiha herself says – she wanted to be in the Foreign Service but that was not appropriate for girls so she was nudged to become a teacher. Girls are denied their potential. They are not expected to – often not even allowed to explore their abilities. The word ‘allowed’ rules their lives. But we know the numbers – educating girls is proven to increase family income, national income, local health, the next generation of achievers and  of course the incomes of the individual. This has been proved. Holding girls back from education stunts the entire community and country. (And I have not even started speaking of human and personal rights)


It is foolish to hold girls back.


If only in self interest, educate the girl child.


Keeping education away from girls is an act of self destruction. Those who cannot see that will remain in their darkness. And it is women then who will have to show the light.


Nadiha and others light the way.


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