5000 kilometres: A long way to school

Sometimes the parents who send their daughters to school get threats from the Taliban

Vladimir Banic
Marwa and Safa
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas

26 May 2017

Faisal Naziri worked as a sales clerk in Kabul, in a store near a school. Every day he watched children walk past his shop on their way to classes. They were mostly boys and very, very rarely girls.

Going to school in Afghanistan can be dangerous for children, Faisal explains. There are occasional explosions in the city, as a result of which children are often killed.

It’s even harder for girls to get an education, and sometimes the parents who send their daughters to school get threats from the Taliban. "They often make these threats come true," remembers Faisal, fear still lingering on his face.

When his daughters were ready to start school, Faisal was at a crossroads, thinking about what to do. He and his wife discussed how to ensure that their children get the education they deserve.

They considered all their options; and then one night they headed for Europe. The risk ahead of them, it seemed, was smaller than the risk they were leaving behind.

Eight months ago they arrived in Serbia and decided to stay.

Now, their family has a new member, Sana. She is only eleven days old. The family lives in the Krnjaca Asylum Centre, near Belgrade, in which they inhabit one room, which has a big bed, a wardrobe and a desk.

The future lawyers, police officers and doctors currently living in the Krnjaca Asylum Centre line-up to receive the backpacks, with grateful looks on their faces and then hurry back to their rooms to prepare for tomorrow's classes.

"This is why we crossed thousands of kilometres," Faisal says while pointing towards the desk.

Marwa and Safa are sitting at the desk and practicing writing.

The same pink t-shirts and the same curious look on their faces are the only way to tell they’re twins. Otherwise they are very different, both in looks and temperaments.

Safa is louder and is not afraid of strangers. She has curly hair and runs around all the time. Safa wants to be a police officer in the morning, and a lawyer in the afternoon. Marwa is quiet, has straight hair and prefers staying close to her mom. She would like to be a doctor when she grows up.

They both started school in Serbia. Safa says she really loves going to school because everyone is nice to her there. There are many girls she can play with.

Marwa likes her teacher. She cannot recall her name, but says that she is very pretty and attentive to her. In addition to the classes themselves, they both like the daily drive to school.

A car comes to pick them up, and then, together with an interpreter, they cross a bridge over the big Danube River.

“It’s like we’re going on a picnic”, Safa explains briefly.

Their dad, Faisal, is looking proudly at the completed homework, and then all three of them go to pick up the school backpacks and supplies that UNICEF, thanks to the financial support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (ECHO), provided in order to ensure the quality education for all refugee and migrant children.

UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Michel Saint-Lot, visiting the Naziri family in the Krnjaca Asylum Centre in Belgrade.
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas
UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Michel Saint-Lot, visiting the Naziri family in the Krnjaca Asylum Centre in Belgrade.

The future lawyers, police officers and doctors currently living in the Krnjaca Asylum Centre line-up to receive the backpacks, with grateful looks on their faces and then hurry back to their rooms to prepare for tomorrow's classes.

Faisal watches his daughter walking away with the other children; they are taking small steps towards better and safer futures.

The girls with their new backpacks.
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas
ECHO and UNICEF donated new school backpacks to ensure the quality education for all refugee and migrant children.
Marwa and Safa, sitting at the desk in their room and doing their homework.
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas
Marwa and Safa, sitting at the desk in their room and doing their homework.

“It was worth it,” Faisal says briefly, mostly to himself, as if confirming that the decision he and his wife made one night in Kabul was the right one.