Editor’s note: The UN’s Afghanistan Human Development Report of 2005 says that the overall adult literacy rate in Afghanistan is 28.7 percent. For women over age fifteen, the literacy rate was reported to be 12.6 percent. For men over fifteen, the rate was 43 percent.
Part 1: Educating Ourselves
Most illiterate people in Afghanistan are women, and this is a big problem for our country.
Today, two-thirds of Afghan people do not have a proper education. Only about 36 percent of our people can read and write. In Afghanistan’s provinces, the literacy rates are very low: 90 percent of women and 63 percent of men cannot read and do not have an education.
Islam says that knowledge is a duty and right of all Muslims. The Holy Quran says of knowledge: “Never night and day is same.”
Night means a person who doesn’t have an education, because night is dark and if we wake in the dark we will fall. But in daylight we will see and avoid mistakes.
I think a person who doesn’t have education is like a person who cannot see. Education is like glasses. If we don’t have education, how can we know what is right and what is wrong? How can we know about our culture and religion? If we don’t have education, we must rely on people from other countries to help us.
Everyone knows that Afghanistan is an Islamic country and that many Afghans don’t have a proper education. People from other countries often want to teach Afghanistan’s people, and we often accept what they teach because we don’t know what is true.
Think of a household. If we have a problem in our house, the father is like a king: he can decide how to fix it. But a child who is only five years old? How could he fix the problem?
Countries are like a family, and if we don’t have education we are like that five-year old child. We need someone to help us. Maybe they will—but only for one day, two days, three days. Not forever.
So how can we, as Afghan people, educate ourselves?
Television and radio are good ways to teach and share knowledge. But we don’t have many good programs in Afghanistan. We have a lot of Indian movies, serial shows, and comedy, which are not educational. Thankfully, we also have some useful television and radio like Islamic programs, science programs, and news.
Another way to educate ourselves is to have good teachers and good schools. Before children are seven years old, they learn at home—if their family is literate. I learned Islamic studies at home. When I could read and write, I learned about my religion through Islamic books. When Afghan children turn seven years old, they start school and continue school for twelve years.
But finding good schools and teachers in Afghanistan is not easy. Many of our schools have been ruined through years of fighting and war, so one of the biggest problems in Afghanistan is that our teachers don’t have experience.
Some teachers are good, but many don’t know how to teach. Some children leave school before they finish, and some families do not send their children to school. They say, “This is just wasting our time.” They want the boys to work and make money. They believe their daughters should not go to school at all. “This is our culture,” they say.
Photograph: Felicia Webb/Christian Aid