Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Monday 28th April

A rotten night with one bad Kabul stomach - and up at 5 to travel to Kishem. Felt so rough and was thrilled to see that the road (which last year had taken hours and was appalling) had been asphalted....bliss! There is so much progress in Afghanistan, so much has changed since coming here a few years back. This road is a prime example and a journey taking 4-5 hours is reduced to one. Distant towns become accessible. Electricity is inching its way across Afghanistan, mobile phones are everywhere.

Chesham is a beautiful city at the foot of the Hindu Kush. It is lush and green and lies along a river, surrounded by poplars and fir trees. It is rare to see such huge amounts of trees in a land where so much has been pillaged for firewood.

Our first visit is to Mashhad Girls school which is twinned to a Swedish school. I am being brought here because they are desperate to have new classrooms and want AC to try and help. They have 2700 pupils and only 15 classrooms. They operate in 3 shifts and still there are 15 classes outside each shift. Everywhere we look there are girls of all ages chanting their lessons under trees in the morning sun and others bursting out of tents. An idyllic scene on a warm April morning, which turns pretty horrific in the freezing cold of winter or the crushing heat (45oC) of high summer.

We drive on to Jeri-Shah Baba-twinned with Holt School, Wokingham. We have been there 3 times before and know the teachers and children now. It is lovely to come back. We have funds to build 6 new classrooms so that all the girls studying outside can come in and sit at desks and benches. We presented them with a new computer (note name of supplier-Dell, we are counting on obtaining some free computer equipment from them based on this and other photos!) Any similar sponsor deals much welcomed?

We visit all the children and talk about the twin school project. They give us beautiful gifts for their twin school and we hand over the gifts from Holt.

This school seems more liberal than most. The female teachers uncover their faces in front of the men ... one even reads us her poetry. It is bizarre that most of these girls have a television in their home, things are changing so fast ....and yet they still sit on the ground outside in the open for school. They all have such aspirations to continue their studies and become teachers, engineers and doctors.

I ask them in one class how many of their mothers are literate - only 4 out of 20 girls have mothers who went to school and are literate. The four are now all teachers! Things are changing ... it is slow, but through education we will see more change. This is the first generation of girls in rural areas to be educated...what better place to help.
I apologise if this blog takes time to appear but the electricity situation is invariably very poor, not to mention the internet.
This is the author up to her normal evening entertainment: writing up the blog in a power out, snapped by an irritating cameraman!

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