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Zabuli Education Center student Pashtana (Beth Murphy)

Live & Learn

School provides education to hundreds of Afghan girls, despite challenges

By WITW Staff on October 31, 2016

The Zabuli Education Center, the first girls’ school in Deh’Subz, village in Afghanistan on the outskirts of Kabul Province, is providing an education to hundreds of girls who normally would not have been able to stay in school. The school was started by Razia Jan, an Afghan woman who came to the U.S. for college and stayed for 38 years, only returning after the Taliban left the country in 2001. Jan started the school against the will of village elders and is able to provide free education to the girls thanks to her nonprofit, Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, which is largely funded by private U.S. donors. She is hoping to provide the opportunity and freedom she enjoyed as a child in Afghanistan in the 1950s. However, she is realistic about what can be done, given how girls education remains a low priority for parents living in extreme poverty, who’d rather marry off their daughters in order to provide for the family. “We never expected that girls who got engaged would stay in school, and definitely not after getting married,” said Jan. “Now we have five students who are engaged more than one year, and one girl who got married and graduated. Since they’ve been to school, I think the confidence they have gives them the courage to stand up for themselves at home.”

While some 3.2 million Afghani girls are able to enjoy an education — some three million others are not, largely due to extreme poverty and early marriage practices. In an “op-doc” for The New York Times, filmmaker Beth Murphy profiles Pashtana, a 15-year-old girl who spent five years in the school but had to drop out because she was arranged to marry her cousin. Pashtana told Murphy she stood up against her father, telling him she would only get married when she had graduated from school. “When I told them I won’t stop going to school, my father hit me with a glass,” Pashtana said. “I told him, ‘You can hit me with anything you want … I have some education now. I know how a woman should live. I have also learned what is right and what is wrong.’” Unfortunately, a month before she was to begin eighth grade, Pashtana got married — and since then, Murphy has not been able to contact her.  “Don’t count her out,” Jan told Murphy. “I don’t think that she will be gone for good … I think we will hear from her again.” Watch the full “op-doc” below.

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Read the full story at The New York Times.


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