My Trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan
"We need to rebuild our country and for that our country needs educated men and women," said a female student in grade 5 with tears in her eyes when I asked her why she wanted to be educated and why education was so important to her.
In Afghanistan under the Taliban government, women and girls lost their freedom of movement - they were completely excluded from any social life. Girls were banned from attending school and their schools were burned down to ashes. After the fall of the Taliban regime and with the intervention of the international community, girls regained their rights and were able to get an education again. The good news is that right now almost 34% of girls in Afghanistan are attending school.
Recently, I visited Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to gain a greater sense of the state of girls' education in both countries. I witnessed the challenges to educating girls and saw how the Feminist Majority Foundation can assist to further girls' goals of obtaining a quality education. Also, I found some partner schools for Girls Learn International.
One school in particular stands out in my mind. Sediqi Girls High in Parwan, is in a dire state and in need of immediate assistance. The Taliban burned down the school a few years ago and the Afghan government has not made rebuilding a priority. The school is still awaiting government assistance.
When I toured the school I was shocked at the conditions. How can students learn in this environment? It is not safe! Students learned in classrooms where the ceiling was falling down and there were no doors or windows. Thus, students were at the mercy of the weather.I was overcome by the determination that these students exhibited. They attend school, which is quite frankly dangerous, because they have a passion to be educated and become an active member of their society.
While here in the US we take education for granted, in Afghanistan being able to go to school and have proper school uniforms and textbooks is a luxury. I have talked to many students ranging from grade one to twelve about what they need in order to continue with their education and they told me that they do not have textbooks. Unfortunately, most of these students come from impoverished families. Students drop out of the school because their parents cannot afford to buy them uniforms or textbooks. Textbooks are only a few dollars! Students also stressed their need for school uniforms.
I also traveled to Swat to visit Malala Yousafzai's school, Khushal Girls High School. Malala was shot on her way home from school in October 2012. The students at this school inspired me, as they were willing to show me around their school under a bomb threat, which is quite frequent in the area. Upon arriving at the school, I was warmly welcomed by the principle. I met with some of Malala's friends. These girls are full of energy and are passionate about fighting for education even if they have to risk their lives just like Malala. After meeting these young girls, I feel that every girl was Malala - very brave and outspoken. I asked them if there was anything we could do to assist them. They told me with joy in their eyes and smile in their faces, that they needed some computers and a projector.
For any society, in order to achieve social, economic and political advancement it is crucial to include women and girls. Afghanistan cannot be rebuilt and cannot sustain its peace and security if we do not empower Afghan women and girls with quality education. The U.S and the international Community need to continue its support and invest in educating women and girls in Afghanistan.
Girls Learn International (GLI) educates and energizes U.S. students in the global movement for girls' access to education. GLI pairs Chapters in U.S. middle schools and high schools with Partner Schools in countries where girls still lag behind boys in access to education and where girls are far less likely than boys to stay in school past the primary grades.