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Afghan children express their hopes and fears

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005/Mitani
Afghan children at Kamari community-based school in Bakrami district, Kabul province, display a flag holding their messages about life

By Junko Mitani, Communication Officer, UNICEF Afghanistan

BAKRAMI, Afghanistan, 5 April 2005 – When asked to express her feelings about her life and her country, nine-year-old Binafsha decided to draw a big apple. 

“I like to eat apples. Afghanistan’s apples are very good!” She explains with a big smile.

Together with her school friends, Binafsha was decorating a flag which will be displayed along with similar flags from other countries at the Japan National Committee for UNICEF’s 50th anniversary event in Tokyo in May 2005.

Binafsha joined Kamari community-based school in Bakrami district, one hour by car from Kabul, a couple of months ago, when the school opened at the village mosque.  In a prayer room with 70 girls and 70 boys, she studies the Dari language, mathematics, religion (Islam) and life skills for three hours every the morning.  She wishes she could also study history.

“There was a war in Afghanistan.  Nobody was safe.  People moved from one place to another.  Everybody suffered.  I want to know why all that happened,” she says.

Najila, a 10-year-old girl, chips in: “I wish I could study chemistry, because I want to become a doctor. Three years ago, my brother got very sick.  My father took him from one doctor to another because he didn’t get well.”

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005/Mitani
Binafsha, aged 9, draws an apple on a flag filled with children’s messages about their lives in Afghanistan.

Najila knows a lot of girls in the village who don’t come to the school.

“Some families don’t think it’s good for girls to have education because they don’t know the benefit of education.  Their parents are not educated, either,” she says.

Amongst children of primary school age, 60 per cent of girls and 33 per cent of boys in Afghanistan do not attend school, according to a 2003 multiple indicator cluster survey.

Ahmad, a 13-year-old boy says: “I think it’s good for girls to come to school.  Girls and boys are the same.”

However, as far as a 14 year-old Salim is concerned; being a boy means heavy responsibilities. He says: “My family is big. Eleven people altogether. My father and I are the only men. The rest are women and they cannot make money.” 

Salim says he can earn 50 to 100 Afghani (US$1-2) a day when he works at construction site or collects fire wood. Spending three hours at the community-based school means less income for the family.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2005/Mitani
Najila, aged 10, Binafsha, 9, and Spujma,10, attend Kamari community based school in Bakrami district, Afghanistan.

Community schools are meant to be a temporary measure until the opening of formal schools in the area.  UNICEF is training teachers and provides basic learning materials while supporting a total of 1,108 community based schools across the country.  This enables more than 55,000 children to have access to basic education. 

In Kamari village, formal schools for boys and girls are going to open in a nearby village, according to Mr. Gulam Muhayudeen, Bakrami district education officer.  However, some villagers are too afraid to send their children there because the two villages were enemies during the war. 

Despite all the problems and worries, children had fun drawing an apple, flowers, a house, a school, a book and a ball point pen to describe their lives, their concerns and dreams. Those who can write, were surrounded by others, who were eager to make suggestions: “I want to become a doctor”, “I want to reconstruct the country”, “I want to be a teacher”, “I want the mines removed”, “I want to have a school building”, “Our land is green”, and “I love Afghanistan”.   

Afghanistan is one of the most difficult countries for children to survive and enjoy their rights – one in five children do not survive past their fifth birthday.



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