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I’m back at school!

Today I spend the day visiting formal schools in and around Mazar. Parents in Afghanistan are reluctant to send their adolescent daughters to school because of the lack of toilet and sanitation facilities. As part of an integrated school health programme, Save the Children is providing much needed facilities for hygiene, first aid kits as well as water pumps.

The girls all wear black uniforms with white headscarves which is the regulation across schools in Afghanistan. They are initially shy but open up when they talk enthusiastically about all they have learnt about disease prevention, good hygiene practices and landmine awareness. I note that they are both philosophical and patriotic in their observations about education. One says “knowledge for girls is important as it will build the foundation for peace in our country”. Another points out “we are the future of Afghanistan…ignorance is what leads to war and that is why I want to study”,

At Khadija Tul Kubra High School for Girls, I spend a long time chatting to 19 year old Farzana. Like all girls during the Taliban regime, she was unable to attend school and spent all her time indoors doing housework with her mother. At the age of 17, she enrolled herself at one of Save the Children’s Accelerated Learning Centres and completed the equivalent of the first five grades of primary school in a span of two years. Farzana is now proudly enrolled in Grade 6 at formal school, recently stood first in her class and wants to be a teacher. She is truly the family trailblazer and being a passionate believer in the power of education has ensured that her nine younger siblings all attend school.

It is late morning by the time I leave Farzana’s school and girls are arriving to attend the afternoon shift. It is wonderful to experience the palpable sense of excitement. The girls rush into school enthusiastically, taking off their burkhas and laughing. I don’t remember ever being so excited about going to school, but then it never represented a sense of freedom for me – it was just something I took for granted.

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