A Multi-Dimensional Story of Resistance
The struggle is real when one has to take an initiative in a community that has experiences and memories of war, violence, neglect and oppression, a community that was forced to leave their roots and move to a new place not because they wanted to but because they had no choice or a community that holds on to negative traditions passed on to them by their elders.
This story is about the two star schools, one located in the middle of Afghan Refugee camp, just behind one of the Pakistan’s leading universities (NUST) and other opened in a small house, in the middle of suburbs of Islamabad (Sara-e-Kharbooza). The places are different, the stories are different, however one thing that is common is both of these is the “fight”-the fight against the resistance!
The resistance was sometimes from the parents and sometimes from the community, however the fight was there. A resistance well fought, for the right purpose to achieve, i.e. Education. Fatima, a literacy mobilizer, played an inspiring and pivotal role in the opening of these two schools is. She is the front liner, the one who does the work, the one who does not let the day to day challenges stop her.
“When I see the happy faces of students studying in the school, doing what they want to do and learning new things each and every day, I believe all the struggles were worth it.”
While discussing the details of how Afghan School was established and initiated at the first place, Fatima shared a long list of hardships she faced in making star school, a place that it is today. There was a time when Fatima was faced with parents who came out of their houses to stop her from talking about education and her dream of opening a school for Afghan Refugee girls. She had to take extra security with her but she never stopped. There was not a single day when she did not get up, dress up and show up!
“In the beginning it was almost impossible for me to enter the locality of Afghan Refugee camps because hundreds of people stood in front of me locking the doors to thef schools, so that no girl child can enter the school, but I never gave up. I knew that I must stand tall and strong today for the future of these children. I will always be delighted to fulfil the promise I made with Agha Jaan, the father of the first enrolled girl child in the school, that Asima, his daughter, will definitely study along with all her fellow cousins and brothers.”
There was a time when educating the girl child was considered a taboo in the Afghan community, and today the school requires the construction of extra space to adjust the abundant inflow of students from the community. The school currently has 222 students and out of the 100 are girls and 122 are boys. Today Asima, the daughter of Agha Jaan, is one of the brightest students and Agha Jaan is the most passionate advocate for girls’ education in his community.
“The efforts of EAC team and especially Fatima, in convincing the community to accept girls’ education is something I will always cherish. I want my daughter to reach reputable position one day and for that I will always be grateful to EAC project for taking the first step.” Says Agha Jaan.
Asima is only one example but there are many more (Nazia, Shahida, Noorzia….), who joined Star School I-12, as a result of continuous social mobilization to fight the resistance from within the community.
The journey of Sajida, a fifteen-year-old girl, underlines a totally different dimension of ‘resistance’, that too against education. Sajida is currently studying in the Star School, Sara-e-Kharbooza, successfully promoted to grade 1, showing impressive results in her study. Sajida is one of the students in Islamabad whose father didn’t allow her to study because of her gender and community pressure. She never experienced the excitement of going to school, reading story books and interacting with other children in her 15 years of life.
“I never imagined that I will wear neat and clean uniform, have a school bag at my back, with books in it and go to school one day. I am very happy that now I can do all this and more, I can read, write and learn like all other kids around.” Says Sajida.
Sajida is able to go to school because ARC realized that many girls are not in schools due to schools not being in the close vicinity so we not only opened a Non-Formal School in the area where she lives, but also appointed a female teacher from the community who is well trusted and respected by community members. This is what made it possible for us to enroll girls in that school.
Asima and Sajida are two of the many thousand girls who can now go to schools and continue their education because we addressed the problem. We brought schools closer to them, we answered each and every difficult question their parents and community had and above all we aspire to unleash the abundance in every human being.