My School for Street Kids

Herat province has many poor families who send their young children out to work every day instead of to school. You can find girls making carpets at age five or six and young boys working the streets washing windshields and selling socks or chewing gum. They earn fifty Afghanis per day, which is enough to buy bread.

I had been working as a journalist for five years when one day I was touring the streets interviewing these children for a story. Most were afraid to talk to me, but the few who did said they didn’t go to school because they couldn’t afford school supplies. Not long after this, I began thinking that we needed to have a school for poor children and orphans.

My heart told me we should find a way to educate the children for as many as twelve years, but I knew the cost would be very high. I calculated the necessary budget to put 100 students in school at more than U.S. $1,000 per month, but my entire salary of $820 was not going to cover that. I talked about it with my family, and my father promised to help me.

I wrote a letter to the Education Department and asked for permission to establish a free private school for poor and orphaned children. It took about one year to get the school registered with the Ministry of Education, and I had to go twice to Kabul.

But finally we were registered. We rented a house to use for $100 per month and we identified twenty children, ages five and six, who wanted to attend the school.

At first, families didn’t want to register the children because they had no money for school clothes and books, so I spent all of my salary and bought materials and uniforms for all the children. We had five plastic chairs and one desk, and we purchased a rug for the students to sit on.

We found qualified teachers. All of our applicants required a salary, so we budgeted $100 per teacher per month. Finally we put up our sign on the door saying Payam-e Danesh, which means Message of Knowledge. We opened our school in March 2010.

When the school opened, some of the students didn’t know how to behave, and for others, attendance was erratic. But after a while, the teachers did well with inspiring the students to come and learn.

Now, about a year and a half later, Payam-e Danesh has moved to a better location in a market. We have seventy students and five teachers, the headmaster, literacy and embroidery teachers, and a cleaner. We also now offer some literacy and child-raising instruction to the mothers of our students.

When I see the students’ development, it makes me very happy to have been able to help create this school and lead the children toward a better future. The students’ lives have improved. They were street children and now they are normal school students.

We still face many challenges. We have orphan students who often come to school with empty stomachs. We can provide only dry bread for them. All of the students attend for free. If we have money in our pockets we will give children twenty Afghanis because sometimes their parents complain about their children in school and not working.

I cannot afford all of this, but Afghan children need an education to help build their country and I will try to keep them in school until they graduate in twelve years.

By Massoma

Photos of the students in their first (orange uniforms) and second years by the author.


Comments

  1. Rozanne Holmes says:

    You are doing an enormous job, but it is rewarding I am sure. I see the happiness in the children’s faces. Keep up the excellent work. By the way, you did an amazing job of writing the above to explain the history and the present status of your work.

  2. Inspirational! The kids look adorable and very proud to be in school.

  3. Frances Cleveland says:

    I am very touched by this story. You are an amazing woman and an inspiration to many. These children are truly blessed to have you in their lives.

    Thank you for your dedication and commitment to such a note worthy cause.

    Many blessings,

    Frances

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a wonderful inspiration!!! I admire you for your strength and for your open heart. It’s people like you who make this world a better place to live. I have no doubt all the children at your school would agree. Please keep up your good works and informed of how things are progressing. I will pass your story to as many people as I can as well. ~Tammy~

  5. Wow, what a moving, inspirational tale. Massoma, you are doing a truly wonderful thing.

  6. I am so impressed by your determination and dedication toward educating children who have the least chances. Your family must be very proud of you, and someday, the children themselves will be motivated to give as much to others as you have given them. The world needs people like you.

  7. What an inspirational story! You saw a need & worked to fix it. I’m sure these children and their families are very grateful.

    Anything we can do to help?

  8. Massoma,
    God has surely blessed you with the wonderful things you have done! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  9. What a truly inspirational story! You have obviously worked miracles and the results will be obvious in years to come as these children grow and become productive citizens. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  10. Your heart spoke, and you listened. The smiling faces in the pictures are a testament to how much that means to the students. The impact you have made in their lives will affect all those with whom they come in touch.

  11. You are making amazing progress so far; I wish you the best as you continue your efforts…both with your school and in your writing. This was a very straightforward yet moving account of your experiences.

  12. Massoma, I’m so glad you wrote this piece! This was wonderful to read. Thank you so much for sharing. You’ve made such an impact on so many lives.

  13. Massoma, Excellent report of your important, literally life-changing work. Your students look so proud of themselves; your impact on their self-esteem as well as their education will help them for many years to come. Congratulatios and best wishes for continued success!

  14. What an inspirational story, Massoma. The fact about some children working as young as six is heartbreaking to me. Childhood is a time of learning and play, not work. What you’ve done for those 70 students are so blessed to have a woman like you standing up for them. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
    Clare

  15. Anonymous says:

    Dear Massoma: Thank you so much for your words and for letting us know about these beautiful children and their predicament. It is so selfless of you for helping these children who have so little. When I was in high school, my teacher had a group of us pledge to go to school for 2 days with no food. You would thing it was just discomforting however I was amazed bye how my academic performance was affected for the lack of food. How do we expect children to learn and focus on school when they are hungry? You cannot. It’s comforting to know that their are people like you who are making a difference in these children’s lives because children really are our future. I also love the pictures of the students. They look like very happy and smart individuals. I’m glad to see that they enjoy education. I come from a world where children dread school and its like polling teeth to get them to do the reading for class, my self not being an exception to this sometimes. Thank you so much for writing on these children’s behaved. I hope the students become a great writers just like you.

    With Much care, Amanda

  16. Dear Massoma,
    I read your truly inspirational story and was so touched by your humanity and your sheer altruism. By providing this children with an education, you are enabling them to feel a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. Thanks to you and your school the children can thrive in a nurturing and caring environment where they are supported and are encouraged to learn. What can be more gratifying then that? I really admire you, your determination, your courage to carry out this project despite the many obstacles. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderfully-written and moving story

  17. Carol Knight says:

    Massoma,
    What an inspiration you are to me as I am sure you are to many. You saw this need and so unselfishly gave of yourself and your money to make it happen and are committed to this wonderful thing you are doing for these children. I am sure through you they are learning the values of helping others and they will go on in this world to accomplish many great things. Thank you for sharing this inspiational story. You have touched me deeply.

  18. What an inspiring story! It challenges me to give more. Thank you so much.

  19. Massoma,
    This is one of the most inspirational stories I have read in a long time. For one person to do so much for so many with so little is just an incredible story of hope and love. What you are doing is so very important and so very honorable and kind. keep doing what you are doing. Do not be discouraged. You are a champion for these children. You are an inspiration to me.

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