In Afghanistan some there are an estimated 60,000 Afghan children who work in the streets of Kabul to supplement their families’ incomes
It means that for many young Afghans there isn’t much time for education.
But one initiative in Kabul, called the border free school, is changing the fortunes of some disadvantaged children.
Mudassar Shah has the story.
It’s early Friday morning here in Kabul as 7-year-old Qudsia is making her way along the street.
She is carrying a backpack, but it’s not a school bag.
Qudsia takes out two small pieces of cloth and a spray bottle from her bag.
“I work as a car cleaner on the main road in the city and clean cars for those who ask me to clean,” she says, “My mother is a housewife while my father has vegetable shop. I earn around 50 Afghanis (US$1) a day which I pay to my mother.”
Qudsia works five hours each day with no days off. She earns one US dollar every day.
Thirty-one percent of Afghans can read and write, while the rate for women is only 12 percent.
Working as a car window cleaner doesn’t leave her much time for school.
But there is one place that Qudsia can study – it’s called the border free school.
Qudsia works every day until Friday afternoon and then she attends the voluntary school.
“I am a grade 3rd student and come to school every Friday. The teachers are hard workers and very dedicated therefore I am sure I will become a doctor as I would like to provide free treatment to the poor like a poor old sick lady in my neighborhood,” she says.
The border free school is organized by the Afghan Peace Volunteers with funding from the Dutch NGO, Child Rights.
It is open as a place for students from poor backgrounds and different ethnicities, as a place to gather, read and learn.
Like Qudsia, most of the students have to work to get by, selling goods on the road or at the market.
At the school more than 100 students attend classes in Dari and Math literacy, nonviolence and tailoring.
Each Friday afternoon, students from grade 9 and 10 at government schools, come to the border school to teach.
For 12-year-old Kulsoom, this is her second day at the border free school. She says she is lucky to have a place to study.
“My cousin asked me to join the school but my father did not agree,” explains Kulsoom, “Later when my teacher went to meet my father and convinced him then he allowed me to study in the school.”
Zikrullah is a grade 9th student. He used to sell chewing gum on the road for two years. But for the last nine months he has been teaching at the school.
“People should not only think for his/her own benefits all the time but they should think for others too, what they can provide to other people,” he says, “I am in grade 9th and I can teach to grade 2nd and 3rd, it is my responsibility to teach and I am teaching.”
Six other teachers teach voluntarily at the school.
21-year-old Zarghona Jan is one of the most popular teachers here.
She is passionate about increasing the education of girls.
During the day Zarghona studies in Grade 11, while at night she teaches the younger grades, students like Qudsia, for free.
“I have been teaching here for the last three years, soon after Taliban militants killed my father. We lived miserable lives after my father’s death but I firmly decided that I would assist people in need therefore I teach here,” she says.
All students attend the school free of charge and there are no uniforms.
Teachers like Zarghona say the school gives poor students and street children an important chance to get an education.
It’s also why she does door-to-door visits to convince parents to send their children.
“I want to work for the poor people who live in far flung areas to bring improvement in their lives and to share their issues and voices with rest of the world,” she says, “Peace in Afghanistan is my dream, therefore I teach these students to bring prosperity in my country.”
Here in Kabul, the border free school is one step toward that goal.