Once i have asked from an Afghan Lady, ” Now Afghanistan’s condition is stable so you can plan to go back to your homeland?”
She replied,” No ,although we wish to go back to our homeland but we can’t. We have not enough money and resources to build our houses and buy lands. We have no money to start a better life. We are happy hear thou we are facing a lot of problems but we do not want to go back”.
Afghan’s are no more Refugees here in Pakistan. Most of them are Pakistani Nationals. They are doing small businesses , running shops and doing labor work here. In every Afghan home you will see carpet looms. Small girls and women knit carpets at home.
When I saw an Afghan school, My inner teacher forced me to go and see these Afghan Children studying. Normally I saw them playing and working on streets all the time so i decided to go inside the school building and see the way of teaching.
On first place I met a Graceful lady Sumera Sehar, who was the Principal of Barkat Elementary School ( School of Afghan Children) With hesitation I asked from her that Is she Afghani, She smiled gracefully and replied, “Not I, Nor any of my teaching staff is Afghani. We are resident of Attock City.” (Afterwards I met two very competent teachers Mehnaz and Irum, who took me to every classroom)
She told me that Schools for Afghan Kids are in number not only in Attock region, but in other cities too. However much good work and effort is done for Afghan refugees. Less then half children get primary education but unfortunately only 5% is receiving education beyond this level. What is the major reason???? Only few parents allow their kids to continue. This is very disappointing
I asked few questions from Principal Mrs Sumera Sehar about Education system of Afghan children in Pakistan, I am grateful to her, She answered patiently to my curious questions.
Q1: What was the school like when you got here.What were the major issues and difficulties when you started these elementary schools for Afghan Refuges.?
ANSWER: when I joined this school in 1995 it had only 22 students and 4 teachers in small 4 room building.
And the only major issue was to bring out children from their homes to school. Parents were least interested in sending them to school.
Q 2: What do you see as the three or four main challenges in educating these kids?
ANSWER: The main challenge in educating Afghan refugees is that they are very traditional in their approach, and have strong discrimination among their sons and daughters. They don’t pay attention to their daughters.
Q 3: How these kids and there parents responding to you. Because 99% an illiterate and they hardly can understand Urdu.?
ANSWER: In the beginning, their response towards education was very discouraging but with the passage of time they have shown positive response and now they send their daughters to schools , although girls enrollment is low but satisfactory.
Q 4: What is the ratio of girls in school. Why they are not sending girls in schools.?
ANSWER: The ratio of boys n girls in our schools is 80:20. the girls do the household work as their mother weave carpet all the day and when she grow up, she also joins her mother in carpet weaving to support the family income.
After asking few questions from Principal, I requested her to show me class rooms because i wanted to meet children. She asked her Two teachers to accompany me.
I entered in one class and for my surprise i saw kids sitting in neat and tidy uniform and busy in school work. I asked questions from them firstly they were shy but after few questions they started enjoying my questions and giving me answers without any hesitation.
When I visited a senior most class of school, I was so impressed after seeing drawings made by students, it was great to see their work. I saw a boy who waved hand to me, first i tried to remember where i met him before then i realized They boy aged 8-9 years was the vegetable seller. I asked him with hesitation but he proudly replied, yes Mam my father is a shop keeper selling vegetables and after school I am helping . Most of the children then told me that they all are doing part time jobs to earn money for family. Girls told me that they weave carpet after school time.
I asked one to weave carpet for me also, she gladly agreed. I was watching the innocent and beautiful faces of kids and praying for their bright and prosperous future.
My gratitude towards efforts of all Pakistani teachers who are motivating these kids and their parents to take education to improve their lifestyle.