Why did you decide to work for AfD’s school for street children?
There is a proverb which says ‘if you see someone fallen, take his hand and help him stand’. In Afghanistan there are many children who are on the streets all day, so they need help and guidance. When I see them working on the streets, I think about their future. They work to feed themselves and their families, but they should be given a chance to get out of this difficult situation. So when I was introduced to AfD, I took this opportunity to offer a helping hand.
What is your role at the school? What does your work entail?
I am the school coordinator and my role is to coordinate activities between our Geneva office and Kabul. I also do surveys to identify the children on the streets. I approach them, conduct interviews with them and then encourage them to come to our center. I see them at our center everyday so I am well acquainted with their situation.
What problems do street children typically have when it comes to their daily lives and their education?
Before coming to school, they are illiterate. The children get motivated after acquiring basic reading, writing and numerical skills – a new world opens up for them. They try their best to finish work as quickly as possible (for example watching cars, selling plastic bags, chewing gums, bread etc.) in order to come to the classroom and have as much time as possible to learn.
What are some of the children’s stories that struck you the most?
We had a particularly difficult case with a boy called Ayn al-Din. He not only had a lot of difficulties at home, but also struggled to secure a daily income as the sole breadwinner of his family. He wouldn’t open up about his thoughts and problems but we knew he was carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders. I learned later that he was suffering from a mental illness, which affected his behavior and jeopardized other children in the classroom. Unfortunately he is no longer attending our classes, but it showcases the hardships of street children, in particular those who on top of their financial situation, suffer from health problems for which they cannot receive appropriate care.
Why is AfD’s school suitable for street children? How is it adapted to the needs of street children?
AfD provides children with free education in addition to the their basic need, which is food. A warm lunch is very important, especially when they or their families cannot afford it. We also offer them notebooks, books, pens and colored pens for their classes.
Sometimes we pay special attention to individual children to address their specific needs. We also encourage those children who have problems following our classes, to stay a bit longer so the teacher can address their problems and re-explain certain things.
Furthermore, we encourage the children to share their problems with us so we can see whether we can help them in any way.
What are some of the success stories of the children that have graduated from the school?
The children enjoy learning. They are motivated by what they learn and are eager to learn more. This is where we see that we have successfully planted our seed – to encourage them to go on and study in a proper, regular school. The aim is that the majority of the children can go on and study in a formal school. So far we have sent one child to proper school, and we hope many will follow. One particular girl comes into my mind that I have high hopes for. Her name is Sigel, who comes from a very poor family and cannot even afford to buy a pen. As the eldest child of the family, she sells bread on the streets for her mother. Sigel is a very smart and competitive girl. I am positive she has a brighter future ahead.
I really love my work with the children and it is a true joy seeing them progress day by day. Their smiles brighten my day. I hope their success at our school will last into the future. I would be so proud to see the children become university graduates one day – I know it is a distant dream, but there is hope.