Monday, April 15, 2024

Mother of five pursues lifelong dream of literacy in Kabul outskirts

Immigration News

Fidel Rahmati
Fidel Rahmati
Fidai Rahmati is the editor and content writer for Khaama Press. You may follow him at Twitter @FidelRahmati
Farzana says that learning has nothing to do with people’s age because, according to her, individuals at any age require the skill of reading and writing/Image/Khaama press.

Farzana, a 48-year-old woman living on the outskirts of Kabul, pursues her lifelong wish by going to the literacy center, where she hopes to learn reading and writing. Farzana wants to read and write. She hasn’t forgotten this lifelong wish, and even now, as a mother of five children, she eagerly walks the path from her home to the literacy center every day.

According to Farzana, humans need to read and write until the end of their lives, which are now considered basic and essential skills for everyone, and there is no age-based criterion for learning. In her opinion, only opportunity may deprive someone of the chance to learn or circumstances, but neither has anything to do with age.

However, she has sometimes fallen victim to circumstances, and sometimes the lack of sufficient opportunity has deprived her of learning. According to her, the family circumstances and mindset prevalent in her family consider learning a “shame”: “In the area where we lived (the first district of the Kapisa province), even my uncles and their sons were illiterate due to opposition to education.”

When Farzana was young, she attended school with her sister Madina, the only local school that allowed girls to attend. But going to school also had challenges, from convincing family members to enduring the unusual behaviors of the local people. Farzana and Madina were not alone on this journey. With the help of their brother, they attended school for a while, where the dream of learning flourished within these two sisters. This dream now compels Farzana to disregard the prohibition on educating girls and women and eagerly walk the path from her home to the literacy center daily.

Farzana’s older sister managed to study until the seventh grade. She learned the skills of reading and writing, but she fell behind after the third grade. These two sisters studied at the Eshtergram Girls’ High School, where, until 1979, only boys were allowed to attend.

She says, “I remember I was in the third grade when they set fire to the school I attended and shot the school principal. Our school principal was named Mastura Kohistani, and I still remember that after her death, other girls and I personally did not dare to go to school and continue our education.”

What Farzana recalls dates back to 1979 when a woman named “Mastura Kohistani” was serving as the principal of the Eshtergram Girls’ High School. The school was set on fire by unknown individuals in the same year, and Mastura was also murdered.

Eshtargram Girls’ High School in the first district of Kapisa province was a girls’ high school before the advent of the Islamic Emirate, and hundreds of girls were engaged in education there. (Image/Facebook page of Eshtargram Girls’ High School)

In addition to the family and social constraints that limited Farzana’s education, there were also political circumstances. According to her, her mother became a victim of political upheavals during the rule of Babrak Karmal and, as a result of the former Soviet bombings, lost her life. Following this event, Farzana was forced into marriage, resulting in five children.

Many years have passed since then, and the circumstances of the family and the new family situation required Farzana to raise her children and care for their health. However, this long hiatus hasn’t deterred her from her dream of learning: “Some people think that our time for learning has passed, but that’s not true. Learning has no specific time. Knowledge has no specific time. I found the opportunity and enrolled myself in the nearest literacy course.”

She is currently studying in a class primarily consisting of children. Initially, it was challenging for her, but now that her reading and writing skills are improving daily, it doesn’t matter much to her whether she studies with children or adults. She only sees the end goal of learning, where, according to her, she can pick up a book and read it without any difficulty.

Negin, Farzana’s instructor at the literacy center, said in a phone conversation with Khaama Press, “I have had many students, but Mrs. Farzana, despite being older, makes a lot of effort for her education and acquisition of knowledge, and no one can understand this better than me. It’s delightful here that her efforts have yielded very good results.”

She says, “Every morning, Farzana listens to me attentively. When I enter the class, she’s the first to recap the previous day’s lessons and properly fulfills her household duties.”

Farzana can now use a smartphone, send text messages to her family and relatives, and inquire about their well-being. Previously, she couldn’t use a smartphone and only communicated with friends and family through phone calls.

She says, “Previously, going to different places like the market, hospital, restaurant, etc., was difficult, and I needed someone to accompany me. But now, I can solve these problems on my own.”

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