Just off the bustling and chaotic streets of Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, lies the Bibi Hawa School. It’s not your average educational institution; this place manages to maintain a sense of calmness and safety and creativity against a backdrop of both rapid community regeneration and an ever-lasting security problem.
“I once heard the story of a father who wanted to desperately send his girl here and I cried just to hear that,” says Saif, the principal of the school. “I started from zero, there was nothing and then the school became famous.” The school’s reputation grew over the past few years, partly due to the dedication of the loyal contingent of teaching staff and partly due to how quickly they managed to create this safe haven of educational endeavor.
More than 6,500 girls attend the three daily shifts at the school these days. But it wasn’t always like this; when the Taliban fled the country, in 2001, there were no schools; some of the school buildings were still there, but most of them had been practically demolished.
“When the schools opened again everything was damaged, the buildings had collapsed, and people’s faces had changed,” says Saif. Since then, however, the children have flocked from far and wide to get their education back on track – they have no time to lose.
Zahra, a 15-year-old student at Bibi Hawa School, remembers how much things changed when the Taliban were forced out of Afghanistan. “When we came back, a friend of our father put us up at their house,” says Zahra. “I was just working at home helping out, not doing much.” Now she spends many of her days in the school’s ‘Accelerated Learning Centre’. “I was so happy to start learning again and still am. When I see the teacher working I just dream that one day it will be me,” she says.
Not only is this type of activity essential for bolstering the skills, knowledge and understanding of both vocational and academic subjects. It also improves the children’s social skills and – perhaps the most important aspect – it boosts their levels of social mobility, making the notion of joining a militia in Afghanistan a much less attractive option.
Here at ACAA, we are also dedicated to developing social mobility and educational attainment amongst diaspora communities. We run a wide variety of events, including conferences, seminars, training sessions and cultural outings – click here to learn more.