Angel by name, angel by nature

Teaching and learning in the heart of Faryab

By Betty Chella Nalungwe
Teacher Parisa Samadi in front of her class in Deh Saidaan village in Faryab Province
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel
20 April 2021

FARYAB PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN – Do you remember walking into a classroom that felt like home? When you have a teacher who nurtures you with passion for her profession and goes the extra mile to make sure you succeed, the lines between home and school blur in all the best ways.

With thanks to funding from the European Union, this community-based school is one of 125 in Faryab Province. The school offers grade 1 and grade 2 classes to help prepare students for a more formal learning environment. It was at this school where I was lucky to meet Parisa Samadi, a young teacher. After watching her teach a class of girls, I was not surprised when she told me her name means "angel". 

Softly spoken, gentle and loving is how I would describe Parisa. Her enthusiasm for her profession was evident in the way she organized her class and instilled in her students good manners and diligent conduct. Well-abreast of their teacher’s expectations, each child knew where and how to sit and where to place personal belongings. No one spoke without raising her hand and until her name was called.

This reminded me of my own days in primary school and it made me happy to see well-behaved learners elsewhere. Parisa reminded me of the former Minister of Education in my home country, Zambia. The Honorouble Dora Siliya had officiated at a UNICEF event, "Amalunchbox" at Linda Open Community School in 2012, when UNICEF supported a school feeding programme in partnership with Game Massdiscounters.

“A teacher can walk into a room and tell learners they can fly, and the same teacher can walk into a room and tell learners the world will end tomorrow. Depending on how the teacher says it, the learners will believe each narrative.” 

Zambia's Minister of Education, Hon. Dora Siliya - 2012

The Minister reminded teachers to inspire hope in their learners, especially young children. Watching Parisa interact with her students here in Afghanistan, it was clear that she was teaching them to fly high and reimagine their futures.

The classroom buzzed with energy. The students were eager to show us what they had learned, reading aloud from a textbook and writing on the board, counting and reciting poetry on different subjects. Looking around at the smiling faces, it was easy to see how confident and comfortable the students were around Parisa.

And these are not the only happy students in Faryab Province. So far, with funding support from the European Union, UNICEF has helped establish community-based schools for over 6,700 learners, including over 4,700 girls. 

"I do not do this for money. I love these children and I want them to learn because it is very important, especially for girls, to get an education. I gave up my university studies so I could teach and do my best for the children. They are eager to learn; they come to school on time every day. I do not want to let them down."


Teacher Parisa photo
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel
Teacher Parisa helps Pari Ramazoni (8-yrs) to read from board during class

In my experience, it is rare to see and feel such a bond between teacher and students. But Parisa has built a unique trust and love with her class. I even heard a story about one student who was stung by a bee but would not go to the doctor unless Parisa came with. 

Group photo
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel
Some of the CBE learners pose for a photo with their teacher and staff from ACTED and UNICEF

That nurturing care works both ways. When the bell rang at the end of the day, most children ran excitedly out of school. Looking around, I saw a small group of girls standing with Parisa. When I asked them why they were not leaving, they told me that they wait with Parisa until she safely boarded the bus on her way home.

Learners playing
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel
Teacher Parisa watches the children as they play outside their class

It struck me that Parisa had a host of guardian angels looking out for her. They had learned from the best.