Saturday, 6 October 2012

Worsaj 3rd October 2012

Sitting by torchlight in the womens' quarters surrounded by a family of inquisitive faces. The day started with Leslie asking me if I had felt the earth tremor in the night and me thinking that that was the one worry I had not addressed! My other anxieties have gone. When in Worsaj, you feel so well loved and taken care of, that the security issues disappear. In Kabul, I don't feel the same, but here, it is so beautiful and peaceful and the greetings we get wherever we go, are so welcoming, that you feel completely relaxed and the only danger is that the hospitality sometimes overwhelms!

I walked before breakfast with Willie and Ned. We crossed the river and walked up in to the hills. The pathways are lined with walls made from the smooth round river stones and carved doorways lead in to shaded courtyards overhung with vines. Children tend the cattle and sheep and turbaned farmers, scythes in hand greet us as we pass.

 Our first school visit was to Abdul Basir Community Based School which is our big fundraising project for next year. Nearly 100 boys and girls attend this school on what seems to be the roof of the world. The children are studying outside or in small dark classrooms. The land for the new school has been given by the community and has a commanding view of the valley below. Mountains covered in scorched dust merge into the bright green of the fields beside the river and the chant of children's voices fills the air. The children are exuberant learners and recite the times tables at great speed, without stopping for breath. They are full of excitement about their new school. We visit 3 classes. Then we are led to a guest room on the edge of the ravine. The view is spectacular from the low wooden windows and at 9 am we get our second breakfast. Huge plates of bread, chicken, mutton and freshly caught fish, with peaches, pears and apples from the orchards. There is a former commander there who fought with Masood and regales us with tales of the war. 

Our next visit is to Khadeja Kubretal girls school. Just 2 years ago, I was asked by the headmaster to visit for a cup of tea. When we arrived, 2000 boys and girls were standing waiting for us and asking us to build them a school! This time all the girls were waiting for us and a brand new school was completed and looking magnificent in the morning sunshine. Hundreds of girls showered us in glitter and stepped on to the path to present us with garlands and bouquets. They sang us a poem they had put to music, about us helping to build their school.  After visits to the new computer room and library, and fun in the classroom meeting the girls, we were confronted with more outstanding Afghan hospitality and our 3rd meal of the day at just 11 am. 


Annoy school serves 600 children, who until now have studied outside in a windswept and desolate valley. We managed to fundraise to build a new school and as we climbed down the hill towards it, we saw the new building below us and again, huge columns of children awaiting our arrival. There was clapping and cheering and young children came forward to present their garlands and gifts of almonds, scarves and embroideries. Mats were laid out for all the children and chairs and tables for us, laden with fruit. All the community elders had come along. We were thanked profusely for all our help. The best moment for me was when the man who owned the land, and who had made it clear last meeting, that he didn't want a school there, came up and thanked me and said he was very happy now that the school was there, he even invited us for supper!

 Bibi Zainab was our next school visit. over 700 girls study here and  we are hoping to fundraise enough to  build a new classroom block and resource centre to be shared with the neighbouring boys school. The sight of yet more girls, who had waited for us for so long and more garlands and clothes and gifts and another table laden with food was overwhelming and deeply humbling . Ten girls from Bibi Zainab went to university last year and this school's drop out rate for girls is zero. This is exceptional in Afghanistan.  Numbers of students are going up and up and they are doing well at all the competitions being held between the schools in this area. Such a positive place. 

Our last visit was to see Kemyan Primary School which is a small community based school for boys and girls.  Previously they studied in a tiny dark building with a collapsed roof. The Bonita Trust has funded AC to build a new school and though building only started in May, it is already nearly finished. We had been told we would not see any children as it was past home time....but again, they had all stayed on, boys and girls and we had another incredible greeting. The Head man and his father were there and had bought traditional Afghan coats for Ned and Willie and embroidered black coats for Leslie and me. More food laid out and wonderful jovial conversations with these larger than life characters who had fought the Russians and whose leader was now fighting the Taliban in Logar with the Afghan National Army. We left in a cloud of children and dust and I slept all the way home.....and home tonight is another house in the mountains. Leslie and I are separated from the others, which means no boys to help us with copious amounts of food! We are in the women's area and have had a fun evening with the girls.


No comments: