Kabul – After two weeks of touring South Africa, Nadima, founder of the Dream Act Foundation, is back in Afghanistan continuing her work. She took time out of her busy schedule to speak to Mariam Mia, senior presenter at Salaamedia, about her tour to South Africa as well as life in Afghanistan.
Nadima emphasised how much she enjoyed her tour to South Africa. The enthusiasm from all those who attended her programme was a welcoming site to see. Now that she is back at home, she is ready to launch new campaigns and initiatives structured towards helping the kids of Afghanistan.
The learning conditions for children
For a child to learn, they need to be in a suitable environment. Afghanistan is reaching its colder months. Unfortunately, most schools and madrassas have to close down because they don’t have adequate heating, explained Nadima. Besides that, the madrassas that do exist are often very small and students have to learn from one Quraan.
“In this madrassa, at least there’s a carpet. They have nothing on the window for the winter like plastic or thick mirrors … The length is probably like five metres. This is where the kids are learning for now and a lot of them don’t have the Quran. Just let that sink in. These kids don’t have Quran here. They can’t afford it. As one child is getting ahead in learning, the other has to wait because they’re sharing the same Quran. This is the condition of my people. These little girls don’t have socks, they don’t have shoes.”
For Nadima, it is a vast difference from what she saw in South Africa. Mothers dropping their kids off in nice cars and the kids having a playground. In Afghanistan, the kids have none of this. Just their dreams.
The lives of children in Afghanistan
The children of Afghanistan are often forced to choose between school and supporting their families. Many of them are either orphans or have one parent. In some cases, one parent is disabled due to the war. Nadima believes it is time for South Africans to open up their hearts and give the children of Afghanistan the opportunities that South African children enjoy.
“South African Muslim communities are so united. They look after each other. You are in a very good position but it is time you share that with my people … What’s the point of having four cars? Mustafa [a child attending the madrassa] his father sells spinach. He stands by the road with a little cart … These two brothers are here to learn but this kid doesn’t have everything he needs as a student, as a child. These kids don’t have candy or a biscuit served to them.”
The politics at play has prevented any meaningful change from happening, according to Nadima. The sanctions and keeping money away from Afghanistan has only hurt the children more than anyone else. Women’s education has been at the forefront of every conversation but the children, who are the future of the country, have been left out of this conversation. Nadima has warned the harsh winter will only bring more tragic deaths as children are left defenceless.
The narrative against Afghanistan men
Many have criticised the men of Afghanistan for many things. However, Nadima explains they don’t send their kids to schools because they don’t want to but rather because they cannot afford it. The money that would go into sending their child to school is the same money they can use to feed their family. It is a case of choosing between eating and sending their child to school. It is time their stories are heard and they are not just blamed for their actions.
“They’re not going to buy that [school materials] because they have to feed the family. People often have this narrative that Afghan men don’t want their girls to go to school. That’s not correct. They’re surviving. They’re saying okay daughter and son. Why not pick my son? At least he will be able to get a job for me and bring food. They have dehumanised the men of Afghanistan. There has been a narrative that’s been played about the men of Afghanistan. They hate their women, they’re selling their daughters. That’s not true. You have to understand, what kind of father will go to such a level that he has to marry off his daughter to a man that is a bit wealthier, has more money? Because he’s protected. That’s the best way he can. He’s not going to bury her. He’s not going to kill her. He’s trying to do what’s best for her.”
This has been going on for a long time. A lot of these families have been neglected. The new government has nothing to do with this except to reveal the truth. This has also been happening when America was ruling Afghanistan, said Nadima.
SMread: More Than Pieces of Cloth
The price of goods
The kids pay a 100 Afghan afghani a month to attend class. While this might feel like a lot, it is a meagre amount in comparison to how expensive food items are.
“The flower bag is 2500 Afghan afghani. The rice is 3000 Afghan afghani. So basically $100 makes about 8 000 Afghan afghani. If you have $100 and you have to buy rice and flour, there goes your money. You have to take a cab, that’s 200 Afghan afghani and coming back that’s another 400 Afghan afghani. So it’s not enough.”
One of the students works half a day. In that time, they make 100 Afghan afghani which will have to be used to support her siblings and her father. Working a full day selling walnuts would bring in at least 300 Afghan afghani.
Every child in the madrassa has dreams and struggles. Their teacher, whose words were translated by Nadima, explained every child has a different struggle. One is living with just one kidney, another has a mother who is completely paralysed. Even through these adversities, every child has a dream of becoming something that will, in the end, be a benefit to their community. Even through this, they are smiling and Nadima hopes the future, and her new projects, will help to give these children the tools they need to achieve their dreams.