methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Afghan Girls

I had a big day at school today, during which a number of interesting points came up. One arose during ‘biology class,’ when I drew a tree with six limbs, and asked the students what the six kingdoms of life are (we had talked about it briefly the day before). One girl came up to the white board and wrote ‘Animals’ and ‘Humans’ on different branches. I asked the class if they thought the two should be in different kingdoms. There was a lot of discussion, but one of the most interesting statements came when Miriam, who was for segregation, noted that, “Humans live in houses, and animals live in the zoo.” Later she strengthened her argument with the observation that, “They are not clean at all, but we are clean.”  There was some irony in that: Kabul is of course filthy, while wild animals are usually immaculately clean.

After lunch we initiated a postage stamp-sized garden in the backyard, digging sod out of a three by six foot area. The girls were ill-equipped to dig. For one thing it was obvious that they had never done anything like that before; they pecked away rather haplessly at the ground. In addition, their attire was poorly suited to physical work. But the real disconnect appeared when we started turning up earthworms and spiders. They girls were beside themselves with giggling, screaming horror. I suppose this is nothing unusual for children or for many people.  A few of the more precocious took a spider and worm away to the classroom to study them with their new dissecting scope, and were quite entranced with this magnified view of life. We’ll plant carrots, radishes, potatoes and lettuce tomorrow.

The co-director of the school, Ted, used to just sit and have discussions with the students in the old days, before volunteer teachers were invented.  I suggested that we renew that tradition, and offered up the rights of women, in Afghanistan and in the world, for a subject.  The idea was well received, and they talked for over an hour.

Nahida, who is sixteen years old and quite brilliant (she is the one who brought the spider in to study it), said that even growing up in Kabul she was frequently told that it was not appropriate for a female to leave the house except in the company of a relative. In rural areas it is impossible to do so.

Anisgul told us that her two older sisters never went to school because their grandfather would not allow it. Fortunately for her, he died some years ago, and, “Now I am going to school to be a doctor.”  

Kamila, who is from Kandahar, the land of the Taliban, said that when her parents not only allowed but encouraged her to start school ten years ago when she was seven, death threats came from the Islamic fundamentalists in the
community. Kamila said now they are getting calls from the same people, distraught because their daughters never got an education, while Kamila
will start advanced studies in the United States this summer.

Nahida, the brilliant one, said that they are going to change Afghanistan.

Methow Valley resident Dana Visalli is volunteer teaching at a private school that prepares young Afghan women (girls) to go to college in the US. He sent this “little taste from the first few days” home to be published.


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