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Aug 24, 2017

In Her Own Words: A Letter From a Student

This letter comes from a CAI scholarship student in Afghanistan. The letter, which has been translated from Dari, shares Yalda’s experiences with war, poverty, and hopelessness and the powerful relief scholarships can provide.  

Each year CAI provided scholarships to deserving students from kindergarten to PhDs. These students are some of the brightest in their classes but often face horrific poverty and life circumstances many of us could never imagine. Yalda’s honest letter explains the impact a scholarship can have in the lives of our students. This year CAI will support more than 700 students with scholarships, but there are thousands more who need our help.

A Letter From Yalda, a CAI Scholarship Student

I hope this letter finds you well as my only coveted aspiration is your health and wellbeing.

I study Dari language and literature at the Teacher Training School of Seyed Jamaleddin Afghan. If I tell you the story of my life, you will see what a hard life I have had so far. I was six years old when my father was killed and at the same time my brother lost a limb in a bombing airstrike. From this very moment, my life became grim and was left with a mountain of grief.

When I lost my father and my brother became handicapped, I lost my hope for life and didn’t want to live. No one was there to support us and we were swamped in poverty. We had a hard life and my mother washed clothes at other people’s home to make a living for the family. My life went on in the same manner until I went to the elementary school and continued all the way through 7th grade. We had a kind neighbor, who always advised me to study hard so I can support my family when I grow up.

We moved from our home in that neighborhood when I was at the 7th grade and I could not continue my education because of the poverty. For two years my mother baked bread and I sold them until I could go back to school again and continue my education. I still had financial difficulties and could not buy my school supplies, so some of my classmates would help me with my expenses. While I was happy receiving their support, I was embarrassed and felt [helpless]. I had become sensitive and would take everything personal.

After 12 years of hard work, I finally received my high school diploma, took the university entrance exam (Kankor) and was accepted at the Seyed Jamaledding Teacher Training School. Yet again, I had bumped into a new hurdle: my tuition and expenses of my schooling. Nobody was there to support me, as my brother, a street vendor, could hardly make any money. When the teacher instructed all the students to obtain the Chapters [class books], I was worried because I couldn’t afford to buy the Chapters. Long story short, I can’t tell you enough about the expenses of a student which I couldn’t afford any of them.

As a student, I received only 50 AFN [$0.73 USD] every week which would pay for my transportation; the Melli Bus charges 5 AFN from my home to the school. If I were lucky to catch the bus, I would take the bus; otherwise, I had to walk one hour from my home to school and another hour to come back home. All things considered, I have passed numerous destitute moments in my life to get where I am right now.

Your organization’s support solves a huge portion of my difficulties in life and I would like to ask you please not to cut your financial aids to me. I won’t be able to finish my education if I don’t get your support. I would like to thank you one more time and ask for your continuous assistance until I reach my long life dream of finishing my education, getting a job and helping my family who has never experienced a moment of happiness. My dream about my future is that I can help other people like me who have had a miserable life and have not been able to go to school on their own, like myself, so they can also improve their families’ life.

In the end, I would like to thank you for continuing your assistance so I can finish my education and fulfill my dreams. In fact, with your help to somebody like me, you bring brightness not only to our lives, but also to our families and take away the bitterness with your sweet deeds. God bless you in both worlds and hope you will get the rewards from God in life. This is the grim story of a girl who lost her father at the age of six and has lived a life of misery.

Respectfully yours,

Yalda

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Jun 2, 2017

The Future of Afghanistan Depends on Education

Khodi Dust Girls
Khodi Dust Girls' Higher Secondary School

“The only way to prevent Afghanistan from going backward is education.”

These words hung heavily in the hot air of a teacher’s lounge in a small village in Nangarhar province last year during a conversation about the future of Afghanistan with CAI Communications Director Hannah White.

They were spoken by Muhammad, an Islamic Studies teacher for grades 9 – 12 at Khodi Dust Girls’ Higher Secondary School. Muhammad is passionate about education, and he truly believes it is the only thing that can save his country.

Muhammad was born in this village, but his family moved just over the border to Pakistan where he lived for 18 years when the war in Afghanistan got too dangerous. There he studied Islam before returning back home to raise his children. Now, the Pakistani government is discouraging non-citizens from attending their schools and private schools are too expensive. He brought his family home to receive educations and to be a teacher himself.

“I work for the children, not for the salary,” he says.

 

A School At the End of the Road

This high school is located less than an hour’s drive from Jalalabad, one of Afghanistan’s larger cities, but it might as well be a world away. Few NGO’s travel off the main route, up a dusty road to help the villagers. The school was built by CAI’s partner organization Star of Knowledge (SKO) in 2012,. Educating their children was so important that a local man with daughters of his own donated almost all of his land to the school. He kept a small strip right outside the where he built a little shop to sell sweets and snacks and watches over the children who attend the school. Though it is new, it has no electricity because the village has no electricity. They are hoping for an English teacher and a librarian for their library in the future.

The children attend school in split shifts with boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon. There is only one female teacher. Muhammad says there are more women who are interested, but they live too far away and aren’t allowed to travel for work.

The villagers are poor, and this can lead to girls dropping out of school when they are old enough to work. The school has a parent’s committee, almost like a PTO, that tries to intervene when this happens. If the parents are too poor to keep their child in school, the committee will find a wealthy person to sponsor the education.

“If [the children] are not educated, there will be no economy,” says Muhammad. “If there is no economy then there is no security.”

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Mar 10, 2017

Risking Domestic Violence to Pursue an Education

Accessing school in the rural villages of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan can be a harrowing experience for a girl.
The nearest school may be a three- or four-mile walk on dangerous roads where she is subject to harassment from men she passes. The threat doesn’t always come from strangers, and often she is hiding her schooling from a male relative who will beat her, burn her or even kill her for attempting to do something as harmless as learning to write her name.

The cornerstone of women’s equality is education—but access to classrooms, school supplies, and teachers is often scarce in the places that need it the most. UNICEF reports that 65 million girls were out of both primary and lower secondary schools in 2013. There is a myriad of reasons girls miss out on education from poverty to war and displacement, to violence or lack of resources.

Cultural and familial norms may limit access to education through threats of violence and shame or ridicule, even when resources are available. Villages deep-seated in tribal customs and conservative traditions expect women to care for children, tend to household duties, and serve their husbands. A woman who challenges these norms by going to school can be seen as shameful or immodest, damaging the honor of the family. Men are expected to control their women, and violence is a common way to punish transgressions.

According to a report by Global Rights, a human rights organization, an estimated 90 percent of women in Afghanistan suffered physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, most of it perpetrated by family. The situation is similar in Pakistan with an estimated 70 to 90 percent of women subjected to domestic violence. Admitting to domestic violence in the family is taboo in these developing countries, so many women don’t report their abuse. If they leave their husbands or families, they will be exiled with no resources and no place to go.
Not all men and families are opposed to their wives, daughters and sisters attending school. Many men, especially those who have had schooling, see the value in women’s education as a way to help support their families. However, violent resistance is still common, especially in rural and conservative communities where most detractors are themselves uneducated.


Despite this, sentiment towards girls’ education has been shifting in Central Asia for many years. Many more communities are making the change to support women’s literacy and girls’ education, despite the violence and threats. Central Asia Institute (CAI), a nonprofit organization based in the U.S., works with partners in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to build schools, provide teacher trainings and promote education for girls in some of the most remote areas of the world.

 

Please click on the link below to read the complete article.

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