Every person is a new door to a different world”

As a 14-year-old Australian, it never crossed my mind that I would have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the kids at Alights’ Afghan school in H-8, Islamabad. I will never forget the girls and boys with whom I had the pleasure to meet and the stories which they shared with me.

Entering this school immediately lifts one’s mood, simply because of the positivity that surrounds them. Every one of them had a smile on their face and had something to share. The boys were so excited to share their thoughts and ideas that they would talk over each other.

The girls and boys who attended school wore pristine uniforms. The girls wore a sky blue shalwar kameez with a crisp white scarf for their heads. Along with freshly polished black shoes. The boys had a pastel orange shalwar kameez with maroon embroidery on their top left pocket, as well as a maroon beany and black loafers. They were full of life with glitter and hope in their eyes.

They each carried their backpacks with dignity. Inside these bags was an opportunity for a better future. Each bag was filled with freshly printed workbooks and a pencil case that carried HD and coloured pencils as well as sharpeners and erasers.

Meeting these children was a humbling and memorable experience. Filled with the English alphabet, the Urdu alphabet and numbers from one to one hundred, their workbooks demonstrated their hunger to learn. Nadia, an eleven-year-old girl mentioned that she also learned how to add, subtract, multiply and divide in maths class.

The curriculum created by the teachers was phenomenal. Though they have few resources they make the best of what they can afford for each child. Each child has a dream and they were all elated to share them. When asked about what they want to be when they grow up the two most popular answers between both boys and girls were a teacher or a doctor, some even said they’d be both.

The most talkative girl around me was, nine-year-old Leila. Inquisitiveness and excitement almost burst out of her as she was glad someone was interested in what she had to say. During our conversation, she remarked how she does her homework with dedication every day, as do all the children.

While looking through some of their workbooks, I was astounded by each child’s hand writing and how remarkably legible and neat it was! The boys who had only started coming to school for approximately four months were already able to confidently recite the English and Urdu alphabet and could write letters and numbers. But like any other students, these kids have wants to expand their schooling journey. One such desire is to have access to computers to explore the world.

These multitalented children are not only scholars but artists. I saw the Afghan Flag displayed in Aaishas’ drawing notebook and saw glimpses of awe and warmth in her peers’ eyes.

When discussing what their interests were it was inevitable that sports was brought up. The girls enjoyed expressing their liking for cricket and soccer. Though few own a ball they all share it with each other to ensure that everyone is included.

The boys had a keen interest in cricket, which was evident by the screaming enthusiasm when they said the names of the  entire Afghani cricket team effortlessly.

Both girls and boys were proud when they were asked to recite a passage from the Quran. Safira, faultlessly recited Surah Al-Fatiha and the girls around her were proud of her too. The girls in particular all share a special love for one another as they all come from similar home situations.

I realised when listening to Safira that this school not only focuses on nourishing their minds but their souls, as they are taught about Isam.

Alight only teaches up to grade five, and only a few children continue their schooling. One characteristic that I noticed about these children was how they all were hopeful. That’s what makes them stand out. Their hope and dream is to continue learning despite what their community believes. Make their hope turn into reality.

Alight is indeed an oasis of solitude for these young minds.