1+1=1

I have faced a lot of challenges with my education. I know I am not alone in this. There are other hearts that are disturbed and suffer as I did.

I remember how I much I wanted to go to school. In my first class, I had my big bag full of books and notebooks, and my neat and clean clothes. I felt myself big from that time and loved being intelligent. I studied four years at school. But my school was closed in the middle of my fourth year because of war and rockets. The government announced that, without passing the final exam, we were promoted into the next class. My fifth and sixth classes passed with me coming and going to school while rockets fell like rain from the sky. I was not afraid of punishment from my teachers, or my parents’ anger or loss of my toys. I was scared of the voices of rockets: sheew, sheew, sheew.

While I was in seventh grade, the Taliban came and I stayed at home. My dreams of graduating from school meant nothing to them.

Students study twelve years to graduate from school but I spent seventeen years. All I desired was to study very hard and to have the best and intelligent teachers.

Until tenth grade, we didn’t have chairs to sit on or boards to write on. We didn’t even have a classroom. We studied under the hot sun or the spring rain. In my class, everyone brought small mats or pieces of logs to sit on, but I didn’t. My house was far from school and it was too heavy to bring something. Sand and small stones were my floor and my comfortable chair.

We didn’t have books to study at home or in the class. Only the teachers had books and we took notes. The only work I was doing at school was writing, writing, writing, so it is no wonder I am a writer now!

The government didn’t pay attention to education or teachers’ salaries. Most of our teachers were just school graduates, not bachelors in specific fields. The teacher who knew biology was teaching geography and the math teacher was the religious teacher. The English teacher had problems with the English alphabet—she was always complaining because the English alphabet had both small and capital letters!

It was not the fault of our teachers; with all these problems they were trying to be kind and teach the best they could. The cause was that our country was born in war. The cause is war, always war…

In tenth grade, I tried to prepare for University. I needed to study very hard and I did. At the same time, I was teaching English during English periods and translating Dari poems for my classmates during Dari periods. With a group of students, I created the first library in our school; members of our team brought books from their homes. I had some newspapers and magazines my father brought me. We created a department that was small but very good: it had a cooking section, knitting, poetry, and science. We also had charts of the best students and I was the first girl who hung my picture on the wall to encourage girls to do their best in education. We also created a small sports team. We didn’t have a sport facility—we didn’t even have a ball. But we could run. On the first day I started to run; at the end of the day my legs were not mine, I felt such pain.

The only thing which was very important for girls was to marry. A group of my classmates were engaged and they invited us to their wedding parties. After marriage, they couldn’t continue to study. Only some girls in our class were thinking high and dreaming of going to university.

After three years of hardship and studying hard, I entered Kabul University. I thought university would be very different from school; I thought the teachers would be the best of the best, but it was not so. Only 5.5% of our teachers were teachers we could count on to be kind, intelligent, keen scholars. Most of others blocked the way and did not promote the young generation. They brought up young students to be slow learners, lazy and crazy…

The education system in our country is always the same old system. Nothing is new here; always 1+1=1. Our country has 5000 years of history behind it but it didn’t grow up. It is stopped and has stopped growing like the mother who can’t birth a child.

But I still was happy to wake up every day to study; I learned a lot, I learned from nothing. I discovered most of the students at the university who lived in the dormitory didn’t have money to pay for study materials. Most of them, 78%, spent $20 they got from begging until the end of the year.

I was always fasting, no surprise that a piece of bread and a bottle of water was my breakfast and lunch. After four years, I passed my classes the university. At the end of my last semester, I had my first new clothes. I celebrated Eid with new clothes and I felt very happy.

When you read these lines, please don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining; I am satisfied. I love life’s pains, it is sweet, it is sweet. I just want to paint the life of Afghan students. I paint the life of a young generation that lives with poverty and is interested in studying hard. If you give them a chance, only a small chance, they will prove they are the best.

War took everything from us. This young generation is a son of war. I am a son of war, and the only thing war still can’t take from us and couldn’t take, is Hope. I was hopeful. I am hopeful and I will be. I will study for my Ph.D. and dream, dream, and dream.

By Roya

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2 responses to “1+1=1

  1. Your perseverance is awe inspiring. Never stop dreaming — or writing. Both are beautiful reflections of your soul.

  2. Hi dear Roya,

    Your manner of writing is very interesting: the twists and turns of the words and the storytelling bring slowly the reader in the dust of the school courtyard with you and your classmates.

    I also come from a generation of students living with less than 1.5 dollars per day in cockroach-infested communist dorms. And this reality is much present: I graduated only last year from my country. Your description brought a warm smile on my face, now studying in a Nordic country university, where all is luxurious…

    I sincerely would want to do anything that I can to help in any way. Knowledge, in the end, is what is left behind after we die.

    Thank you, Roya for reminding me.

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