People are surprised when they learn I teach computer classes. Most men in Afghanistan think a woman’s mind cannot understand computers. I believe if women want to bring changes to society, women should be daring and begin to challenge the stereotypes about women. I dare to break the stereotype that women are not smart enough to understand technology.
I learned computer from the American teachers at my school. They taught me Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Quickbooks, and how to solve basic hardware and software problems. Because my American teachers taught me as volunteers, they inspired me to teach my own students as a volunteer and I now share my knowledge of computers with children in an orphanage near my home in Kabul.
Last year, I met with the head of the orphanage and told him I would love to teach computer classes for the children. He told me to send him my CV and after few days they asked me to come for an interview. The interview went well and I became a volunteer teacher. I walk to the orphanage early each morning except Friday. Walking early in the morning is great because I don’t see anyone around who will stop me from going to work and I feel really independent.
At the beginning I had just had one student, a boy named Sorosh. That was a good thing, because before the first day of class, I turned on the twelve computers in my classroom and only two were working. Two male teachers were in the room and I asked them to help carry the broken computers to a table so I could try and fix them. They were surprised that I knew about computer hardware. One of them knew about computers, so he helped me and the other watched and was excited to learn about what we were doing. Then I made a long list of things I needed and the next day I had the new equipment. I was able to make the repairs and as a result we had more computers for the students.
There are now 100 students taking my classes. Most are from the orphanage, but some are neighborhood children whose parents pay the orphanage for the class. My students are seven to sixteen years old and I teach them in a coeducational system so it is a competitive class. There are not enough chairs in the classroom, so students sit on the floor and on the windowsills. They learn how to write on the computer, how to make tables and even how to draw, which makes them so happy. I teach them about using the Control Panel and their favorite lesson is changing the cursor shape. One day I changed it to banana and they laughed a lot.
I teach my lessons on one computer and they watch what I am doing. Then the students take turns working on the computers. Because we have only a few computers, a student will wait almost thirty minutes for a chance to use the computer and repeat the lesson. I give chocolate, cake, candy, pens, and purses (we put the pens inside of them) to the students who answer my questions. Even one chocolate makes then so happy and I wish I could give them all the world when I see them smiling.
Because many of the students do not have notebooks, I made a manual for them with chapters on software like Windows and Microsoft Office and on hardware. It helps them better understand what is taught in class and they also have it for the future. “One day you will be here instead of me,” I tell them, “and you will use these notes to teach your own students.”
I am inspired by their passion for learning. They love to study. Sometimes in university, my classmates make fun of teachers and of the lessons. But at the orphanage I see only a love of learning and it has really motivated me to help them change their situation in life. By learning to use a computer, I think my students—girls and boys—can use their skills to find good jobs and make a future for themselves and their families.
Sometimes people will see me teaching class and ask, “Did you come from outside of Afghanistan?” When I say “No,” they can’t believe it. I hope that in the future, everyone in my country will believe that women can work side by side with men in technology and improve our world.
By Shogofa Az.