Thursday, June 20, 2024

12-year-old Afghan girl’s last day in school

Immigration News

Fidel Rahmati
Fidel Rahmati
Fidai Rahmati is the editor and content writer for Khaama Press. You may follow him at Twitter @FidelRahmati

Written By: Zahra Rashidi

The prohibition of educating girls in Afghanistan has created immense challenges for millions of girls, unlike anything seen anywhere else on this planet. Girls who were below the sixth grade managed to stay in school for a while. Still, now that they have completed sixth grade, they are experiencing the restrictions imposed by the Taliban administration, which forbid girls from receiving an education. This report tells the story of Ummul Banin, a 12-year-old girl who thinks that instead of the “school bell,” there’s a “bell of despair” ringing for her.

The clock’s ticking sound reaches my ears rapidly, signalling the end of Ummul Banin’s education. Ummul, who started school at the same time the Taliban administration came into power, is now preparing to complete her education with the passage of time, and she is scheduled to take her final exams today. She tries to clear her mind from the terrifying whispers that suggest her education will come to an end here, as she is about to take an exam on her favourite subject, “Dari literature.”

Ummul, a 12-year-old girl, quickly wakes up like any other day, has the breakfast her mother prepared, and heads to school. Unlike other days, she enters the classroom with high spirits, while her classmates and teachers are not happy at all because they believe the dreadful whispers that girls should not study. She confidently answers all the questions on her exam paper, but suddenly, she finds herself in a situation where there is no escape, and she has to bid farewell to her teachers and classmates.

Ummul says, “The teacher entered the classroom and thanked us for our diligent efforts in our schoolwork. I didn’t know that a day of despair had arrived, and the teacher continued to say that your education period ends here, and none of you will be allowed to enter the school from tomorrow.”

When people convey bad news to us, our dissatisfaction is directed towards the messenger. However, Ummul says, “I knew this wasn’t the teacher’s wish, and the teacher is just following orders.”

Ummul’s last hours in school have arrived, and she doesn’t know what to do. Overwhelmed by despair and uncertainty, she goes to the principal’s office. She finds her name and realizes that she has only been absent one day in the past year due to illness.

Ummul says, “I am more attached to school than anything else.” She had hoped to graduate from school and continue studying literature at university. Her mind is troubled, and with this despair, she heads home: “Although I was expelled from school, I was happy for girls below the sixth grade who still have the opportunity to study.”

Ummul’s mother, who is illiterate and one of her supporters in promoting education, expresses her concern about her children’s well-being: “Within a week, Ummul’s mental and emotional problems have transformed her into a different person. She used to smile before, was sociable, but now she hardly talks to us.”

Ummul’s mother, who is around 50 years old, says, “she wanted to study both literature and medicine simultaneously. She used to say, ‘Mother, I will go to Russia for my studies and come back to build a big hospital here.'”

However, according to her mother, about a week after completing sixth grade, she no longer talks about her dreams and withdraws into solitude.

Ummul is an avid reader, and this is what remains of her education from school. Her family’s hope is that she will once again engage in reading her books.

Many books are seen on the top shelf in the room where she lives. Although she has always been interested in reading alongside her schoolwork, the ban on education has given her more time to read in the past week. The last book she read was “The Tale That the Princess Didn’t Tell.”

Ummul, alongside her eagerness for reading, also wishes to become a good writer. Still, she believes that writing requires a calm and peaceful mind, which she currently lacks due to her circumstances.

Sometimes, she sees Leila, her former classmate, who has become reclusive like her. Some days, they try to slip away from the school’s vicinity during their free time, hoping that Leila’s condition will improve. However, Ummul says she never looked back at the school and her unfulfilled dreams because she knew everything had changed, and the only reason for Leila’s absence from school was her well-being.

Ummul says she hopes to resume her school lessons next year or in the coming years, but the fear of wasting time haunts her. According to her, there might be a day when we are allowed to go to school again, but by that time, our enthusiasm will have dwindled because our teachers won’t be there, our classmates won’t be there, and many other things will have changed.

In Ummul’s belief, for now, she is willing to fight any kind of restriction, even if it means wearing a burqa and continuing her lessons because studying at home and taking online classes can never replace in-person school sessions.

She concludes by saying, “Lately, I sometimes think to myself and say, ‘How good it is to be a boy in our country; I wish I were a boy and could continue my education.'”

We attempted to speak with some of Ummul Banin’s teachers for this report, but due to the sensitivity of the topic, they declined to comment.

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