News from Afghanistan and about the Afghan people is often associated with violence in the western media, especially lately in the U.S. media. News of progress and success is rarely of any interest to the media or often taken with a grain of salt or dismissed as not enough to justify the investments made in the country with the help of the international community. This is critical, especially at a time that much of the media’s focus is devoted to the failures of the U.S. and the international community’s efforts at rebuilding Afghanistan.
Looking closely at the progress made in Afghanistan, it is completely different story. A lot has changed and much of that progress is visible in the areas of women’s empowerment and education, especially men’s views on girls’ education. This is important because nearly two decades ago, under the Taliban rule, girls and women were banned from receiving any education at all and only 900,000 boys were in schools. Now about 8 million children are in schools some 40% of whom are girls. Today, there are also 170 public and private universities and colleges operating in all 34 provinces, in which 25% are women receiving higher education. Human interest stories are plentiful, highlighting the progress made in the country.
Lately, an Afghan father in the southeastern province of Paktika was given the title of “hero father” for walking with his daughters 12km each way to the school (nearly 15 miles both ways) so that his three daughters are educated. The nomadic family lives in a distant part of the village but firmly believes in the power of education. The 63-year-old father accompanies his daughters every day to the school, waits outside until the school session is over, and walks with them back home. He is illiterate himself but he hopes that his three daughters will become doctors and will serve their people in the province. Education is new to him and he only realized to send his children, especially daughters to school in the last couple of years. His daughters are in the 6th and 8th grades. This wouldn’t have been possible some two decades ago.
Following the news of the “hero father”, in the neighboring province, Khost, another father donated his land to build a school for girls, a place where people struggle with poverty, but the drive for education is astonishing. He says he donated his land to the Ministry of Education (Department of Education) for a girls’ school “because there was no girls’ school in our village and that was disturbing me. I decided to donate some part of my land and if needed, I will donate more of my land.”
Not too long ago, in the month of November another father built a school in the northeastern part of the country, Badakhshan province, from his own savings for the local children. This father used to be the guard at the school and saved his little monthly income to build classrooms and some other basic facilities for the children in his area.
For the Afghan people, in addition to much of the progress made by the women in Afghanistan, it is these heroes that represent a new and modern Afghanistan, a place where people, young and old are demanding to get an education and to live a modern and peaceful life.
BBC (Pashto) 12/15; VoA, (Farsi) 12/16; VoA (Farsi) 11/26