Education is an inherent human right. Men, women, and children should have the option and opportunity to access education if they choose to do so. To deny someone the right to learn about and expand their world perspective on topics such as gender, race, sexuality, political stance, or even socioeconomic status is to set back progress and mobility.
One woman’s efforts to change the status quo in Afghanistan has created waves in the country’s education movement. Afghanistan currently has 3.5M children who have never attended school, and of that significant number, a whopping 75 percent are girls.
Jahantap Ahmadi – a teacher with a high school degree – had to walk until her feet were bruised and then take a 10-hour bus ride to take a university entrance exam, and with her children in tow no less. She displayed fierce tenacity in order to achieve her goals. Now, Jahantap proactively teaches local children in her community.
“I saw how many people wanted education,” Mohammadi, Jahantap’s husband, said. “They all brought their children for her to teach.”
Jahantap’s local education method constitutes as a form of “community-based education” that is separate from the Afghan government. However, the problem with this method is that it’s specifically donor-based and is therefore not permanent. Issues of poverty affect whether or not children will attend local “classes” or even be able to afford basic school supplies.
“Even amidst the great difficulties Afghanistan faces, the government can and should be working to ensure that girls and boys have equal access to education and to integrate girls’ community-based education into the national school system,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “Donors should commit to long-term support for girls’ education and need to ask more hard questions about how their funds are being spent.”
Jahantap’s perseverance proves how determined someone can be when change is needed in their community and their government. Education – whether it is foundational or higher education – breeds social and economic change.
“I wanted to get my education so I could help my village [and] change my village,” said Jahantap. “I want to help my society, but first I wanted it for my children so one day they could be educated.”
To combat the educational barriers in Afghanistan, the country’s government should focus on not only increasing women’s access to schools but also specifically emphasize that boys and girls need to complete their fundamental education.
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