Uncommon Courage Of Afghan Parents and Children
Imagine sending your child to elementary school, knowing there's a chance that brutal thugs might attempt to poison her -- because the very idea of your child receiving an education is so offensive to them.
You can easily see how the system of education in Canada could quickly break down under such awful pressure. Yet this is the situation that Afghans in areas threatened by the Taliban must deal with. An excerpt from The Courage Of Afghan Schoolgirls in the Toronto Star:
I visited the home of Sakina, one of those staff members, and met her daughter Marwa, who was one of the girls directly affected by the attack. You can just tell that Marwa is a great kid. She’s alert and attentive, and apparently very hard-working. Every morning she’s home alone until her brother comes home at 11 and it’s time for her to go to school. During that time she cleans the house, top to bottom. When she’s not cleaning, she likes to study. Marwa says her favourite school subjects are math and Dari (their first language). She’s currently the third-best student in her class. Marwa wants to become a doctor.
According to Marwa, when the attack occurred the class was in math period. She was just going to the front of the class to present her homework when suddenly she passed out. When she next opened her eyes, she was in the hospital.
Sakina, the mother, has an amazing story as well. At around 14 years of age she was engaged to be married. Her father tried to hold off the actual marriage until she was older, but the father-in-law insisted it happen immediately because he had no women in his household to do the work.
So Sakina was married barely into her teens. She had five children, Marwa the youngest. When Marwa was 2, Sakina’s husband died of a heart attack. Her father-in-law tried to force her to remarry with one of her husband’s brothers. She refused. Her father-in-law took her possessions and forced her to leave her home. She found shelter in a ruined house. She managed to build a small oven, and for two to three years raised enough money to keep her kids in school by baking bread.
When she saw a CARE food distribution for impoverished widows, she applied to the program. But Sakina was not content to live off charity and the meagre returns of her baking. She wanted to be independent and make a better life for her family, so she approached CARE program staff and asked for a job. Impressed by her tenacity and drive, the CARE workers recommended her for employment. She now works as full-time cleaning staff for the office of the same program that she first went to for food.
On the day of the attack, other CARE field staff who had been in that district heard rumours and told Sakina she should check on her daughter. Sakina spent a frantic half-hour phoning to find out where her daughter was. Finally she reached her home and got her son. Marwa had been declared okay, released and returned to the school where her brother was waiting to take her home. Shaken but relieved, Sakina put in a full day’s work.
In a week or so, my own daughters will go back to school. The biggest things we’ll have to worry about are what we can and can’t put in their lunches, and if we have all the school supplies they’ll need. We don’t have to worry whether someone will spray poison gas into their classroom because they don’t think girls should have a right to go to school. So much we take for granted.