Every step counts
The journey to access quality education in Afghanistan
Daikundi, Afghanistan, June 8, 2020 – Peshok village is located in a remote part of Daikundi province in the central highlands of Afghanistan. Children oftentimes find it difficult to access schools as these are located several kilometers from their homes and the path is sometimes difficult with stones, mud and water ditches. The distance covered walking to and from school is also quite tedious and exhausting. Many parents opt to keep their daughters at home doing household chores or helping in generating income, by working on the land or herding cattle, rather than sending them the long distance to school.
Hundreds of children from the surrounding areas attend the local Peshok mixed High School. Thirteen-year-old Zahra who is currently in grade 8, enrolled in this school in 2013. Unfortunately, she fell off a high plateau when she was nine years old and damaged her back, causing her difficulty to walk and breathe. Zahra was then in grade 4 and many thought she would not continue her education, but with determination and the support of her family, Zahra made the tough 1.5 kilometers journey, daily, by foot, to reach her school at Peshok village.
Despite the difficult walk to school, nothing deterred Zahra from continuing to pursue what she loves best, getting an education, as she firmly believes that her future and that of her country lies in the education of the next generation, especially girls. “Distance has never been a challenge when walking to school, nor has been my disability, however the damp and cold classrooms, during the rains and winter seasons, made learning very difficult”, Zahra highlighted.
In 2016, twenty school buildings were to be constructed by the Ministry of Education in the Central Highlands with the help of UNICEF. These schools’ buildings were for students who were studying in the open space or in muddy classrooms in difficult and hard to reach areas. Peshok mixed high school was among one of the schools constructed by UNICEF in 2016 with the generous donation of the Government and people of Japan.
Zahra has six siblings and she is the youngest. Her two brothers studying in ninth and eleventh grades respectively, as well as her four other sisters, are also in the same school. “My brothers and sisters help me with my schoolwork and review my homework. I really feel safe and loved when all of us are sitting around and studying, being there for one another,” says Zahra with a lovely smile. Zahra aims to finish secondary school and prepare to enroll in university.
Zahra’s mother 45 years old Khadema is happy to see all her children going to school. “It is not easy to manage the home and the school is far away from us, but in-spite of that I have not kept my children away. I have also given special attention to Zahra to ensure she doesn’t miss out on education, as she is really smart and capable.”
Zahra believes she is fortunate because her elder siblings used to reach home late in the evening due to the distance they had to cover to and from their previous school, but with the Peshok high school built, going to school has become relatively easier for all the children in the area.
Most of the inhabitants of Peshok are farmers and live by the sweat of their brow to generate income and support their families. Zahra’s parents are also farmers, the land being their only source of income. 2019 was a year of drought resulting in poor yields, forcing the family to take loans, hoping for the next good season to pay back.
“I am going to change all this”, says Zahra with passion. “My family won’t have to go hungry and wait for the land to yield produce for us to survive. I will work hard in my classes and with an education I will change the fortunes of my family. I want to see my father sleep without any worry that this family has enough to go by.” Zahra emphasised.
Khadema says she has seen many difficult days and times, but gets strength and hope from her children. “My children are very hard working and intelligent and I am hopeful that with a good education they will have a better future and can take care of not only their family but also serve their community.”
Zahra is very happy and thrilled to be able to go to a school that no longer leaks when it rains and its warmer during the winter season, but also hopes that thousands of other children who are still studying in difficult situations can also have school buildings where they can study safely. “I am very happy we have a very good building for our school now, it feels much safer and much warmer when it rains, but I sincerely pray and hope that one day all the children will go to school, have beautiful and concrete classrooms,” says Zahra.
The Peshok community is happy to have this school where some 476 children (233 boys and 243 girls) are now studying under the guidance of trained teachers.