Monday, 26 April 2010

Sunday 25th April


Early start to Keshem and a beautiful morning drive. There is “drought land” across these hills. Wheat is sown each year and will only grow if the rains come. There is no way to irrigate the land. This year the rains have been good and there is a green and brown patchwork quilting the hills. The green is the wheat and the brown is the intermittent strips of land left fallow for the year. The snow peaks of the Hindu Kush frame these drought lands. Farmers plough the soil with ancient wooden ploughs drawn by oxen and donkeys with brightly woven saddles plod past us, their heads bowed low under impossible loads.

Keshem lies in a valley where there is always the faintest sliver mist shadowing its river and waterside poplars. We branched off to our school and travelled through the villages and more spectacular scenery on the roughest of tracks, tracing the river to the furthest bridge, where we crossed to Jari Shah Baba School.

We have been visiting the school for 4 years. There are nearly 1400 girls there and most used to study outside. AC has completed 2 projects here to build enough classrooms for all the girls. We received a wonderful welcome. In the garden courtyard of the school, girls were out in headscarved teams playing volleyball ...a real joy to see in a country where so few girls are allowed to play. Another group are busy in the kitchen. They received cooking equipment from their twin school last year which we presented to them on our last visit.

Today they were jammed into a tiny room, cooking us a feast of welcome. They had brought fresh vegetables from their gardens and the head teacher had brought in some of her chickens. Delicacies such as the local flat bread stuffed with vegetables were being made amidst very happy laughter.

The whole school was buzzing. The choir had prepared the National song and a song of welcome and sang with great gusto. Everywhere we went we were followed by hundreds of children. We gave out all the twin school cards and projects and did a lesson involving all the children in discussing the Millennium Development Goal of education for all primary aged children. We heard first hand from the girls of all the reasons why children miss out on education ...and all the problems they face...but also all the fruits of education. The sadness is that these girls are so bright and determined and all want to serve their country as doctors and engineers and teachers, but as they said, it is so hard for them to afford university or to be allowed to go so far from their homes to study. None of these girls has an educated mother. It is a new generation and things are changing, but perhaps not fast enough for some of the really bright ones.

After a delicious lunch, we went back to Keshem town through the lively bazaars and on to Mashad School....for 2500 girls. Until this year this was our largest project and it looks fantastic. Beautiful buildings and wonderful grounds. Very exciting to see it finished. The first time I came here the garden was awash with groups of children who had no classrooms. Now they have a finished school.

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