An early start and another cloudless sky. Ahead of us a 5 hour journey to Worsaj and our favourite village in Afghanistan- Zouhruddin. The journey is totally spectacular and incredibly uncomfortable—the road is the worst I know! We passed through gorges and along the river and on up into the mountains, past fishermen, herds of goats, nomads. At one point we saw lines of men up on the mountain side wielding vast nets. Hidden behind a wall, they sent their children beating with flags in the valley below. As birds flew up into the skies, all the men would leap up from behind the wall and throw out their nets in unison and trap the birds ... I guess a practice which had been going on for centuries in these hills.
Our arrival in Zouhrudin was like coming home. The limping, toothless, turbaned guard nearly knocked me over in an enthusiastic welcome which brought tears to my eyes. The lead teachers, by now old friends, held out their hands and touched their hearts and took us into the tiny staff room for tea. They thanked us over and over again for bringing hope to the girls in the valley by building them a school.
Thanks to our wonderful donor who paid for the new classrooms, I was able to tell them that we can also build a further 8 classrooms to house the science lab, computers and library and all the students that have signed up since we started building. There are well over 1000 girls coming to school now. I also told them that he had agreed to build them an outside wall .....and they promised that should the wall go up, they would let all the girls play basket ball and volleyball ......a massive step forward and one which thrilled the female teachers and students.
They haven’t yet moved into the new building as the painting isn’t finished and we visited them in outside classrooms and tiny dark rooms in the rented building they currently use. There we found girls who spoke immaculate English and had written beautiful letters in English to their twin school -Sholing in the UK. They had made books full of letters and drawings and descriptions of life in Afghanistan and also beautiful woven baskets.
They all asked for computers and for us to hurry with the painting so they could move to the new school. I gave our first computer to them ....they have a new teacher who speaks English and has had training in computers and they are incredibly keen to learn. If you could see this place and how far it is from civilization and how primitive the villages are it would help you to understand how utterly amazing these girls are –and if they are only allowed the opportunity to work, then Afghanistan is set for a better future. 27 of them went to university last year. All the teachers were once pupils at the school.
We had lunch under the trees on rugs and tapestry cushions. They had caught us fresh rainbow trout from the river and they were absolutely delicious and so fresh.
Saed Oberdin is the retired headmaster and now just teaches. He was a commander in the Russian war and worked along side the National Hero Ahmed Shah Massood and became close friends with him. He brought education to Zouhruddin and has fought for it ever since...his son and daughter were the first two people to go to university from this valley. It is due to his efforts that girls came to school and that we were given the land to build a school.
After lunch he led us through the hills and over the river to the new school. On the way we passed a 500 year old mosque hidden in a courtyard. It had beautiful carved pillars and overlooked the mountains. Little girls sat outside chanting the Qu’ran.
The new school looks magnificent and just needs its final painting to be done. As I stood outside, people came down from the villages around and asked if I was the woman who had instigated the new school....was so touching as they all asked God to bless and protect me and held my hand in thanks. It is something that all the community wants and 70% of girls and 90% of boys in this valley go to school---way above the average 33 percent in rural areas.
As we left, they begged us to come and stay in the village next time we come and have all offered us their homes as our own.
We visited the Boys School and saw tents of kids studying outside and promised to help them as we are helping the girls. In this area , whatever we give will be used and the return will be huge ....I have never seen such a will amongst children and whole communities, to fight for education.