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Afghanistan: children’s voices growing stronger



Save the Children is helping children who work the streets of Kabul get an education. Now our partnership with ANIM is giving them the opportunity to study

In a small sunlit room in Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music (ANIM), auditions are taking place. Children from Save the Children’s child-friendly centres across Kabul have come to try for a full scholarship, and the opportunity to study here full time.

At our centres we teach children who work on the city’s streets about their rights and give them the chance to play and learn in a safe environment.
This year we’re also working with ANIM to give 120 of the children we support the chance to audition for one of the institute’s scholarships. It’s an opportunity which is proving extremely popular.

Karim* is fourteen years old. He used to work every day shouting out the destinations for private buses. When the vehicle was full, the drivers would pay him 5 Afs (around 5p). Now he is in grade six at school and eager to learn.

A chance to be heard

Karim hopes to win a scholarship at ANIM
Karim hopes to win a scholarship at ANIM

In the audition room the staff take great care to put him at ease before he begins. They know that these children are not used to being listened to, let alone performing.

Slowly the music tutor plays a few notes on the piano and asks Karim to sing them back to us. His voice is faint. The tutor smiles: ‘I don’t know how you can sing at all with that scarf around your neck!’

Karim’s scarf is wrapped tightly to keep out the winter cold, but the tutor gently encourages him to take it off, stand up straight and use his most powerful voice. He sings the melody again and Karim repeats it back to him, louder this time.

Later Karim tells me he wants to study here because he loves music – he plays the tabla (drums) and wants to learn the damboora (traditional stringed instrument).

‘I like to play and sing,’ he says, ‘and my family support me; they sent me here because they hope I can study more.’

Hope in challenging times

There are eight people at home, he explains, and his father does not have a job. An older brother is currently supporting the family by working in a garage.

His mother Sima tells me how happy she is that Karim can come to the Save the Children centre and that he has been able to gain an education. She’s illiterate but she wants more for her children, she says. This is why she’s brought Karim and his younger brother Nasir* to the institute to audition.

I spend half an hour or so sitting in the audition room listening to a succession of children singing back the notes, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Kabul has faced rising insecurity in recent months, with a fatal attack on the French cultural centre still fresh in everyone’s minds. But here, the children’s voices are getting stronger, and hopes and expectations of mothers like Sima are growing.

It has never been more important to give children here hope for the future, access to education and a safe place to learn. By collaborating with other organisations, and institutions like ANIM, we can do more to change the lives of children for the better.

* Names changed to protect identity

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