'Don't let your mother to go to school and teach,' said a gunman at the doorstep of my house said while pointing his rifle toward my son.
As I was returning from school an anti-government gunman riding on motorcycle was following me. He was still following me onto my street where my house is located. I walked faster and faster, running to the house. Fortunately the door wasn't locked. I entered the house, shut and locked the door.
The man stopped his motorcycle and loudly knocked on the door. My children were startled and ran toward me and asked, 'What happened?' I put my finger to my lips, asking them to be quiet. The man again knocked at the door.
One of my children asked, 'Why you are knocking the door and what do you want?' The man loudly asked my son to come outside. My son opened the door, but I stopped the rest of my children from going out. I was crying, worried, what will happen to my son. The gunman pointed the rifle toward my son and asked him: 'Who was that lady and what is her job?'
My son replied, 'she is my mother and she is a housewife.'The gunman shouted at him, told him not to lie. 'She is not a housewife,' he yelled, 'she is a teacher, stop her going to the school and teaching girls, otherwise I will shoot her. This is my last ultimatum, understand?'
My son said, 'yes sir, she will not go to school.' The man drove away. We were terrified. For several days, I stopped going to school and finally decided to move house. I rented another house in a different location of the city and resumed going to school.
I'm 54 years old, with 30 years of teaching experience. I am teaching in a local school in a suburb of Kandahar City.
When the interim government came to power in 2001, the government lunched back to school campaign for all school aged children across the country and schools were opened all over the country. But after one or two years the threats toward schools began, especially in conflict areas like Kandahar, and have increased here day by day. Now almost all schools in rural areas of Kandahar, especially girls' schools, are closed. Even in the city, schools, teachers and students are being targeted time and again.
I can't wear a teacher's uniform; if I do I will be killed. I wear a burqa. I have three types of burqas, and for security reasons I change my burqas every one or two days. I also change the way I go to school, sometimes walking long alternative ways to get there. Changing clothes and route is my routine; this is the situation for all female teachers in Kandahar.
Being a teacher in this city, especially a female teacher, requires living in fear and taking strong security measures to protect myself and my children. I change my route and my burqa, but I don't change my job. I know the importance of education; I know the children of my city, especially girls, need to be educated. I see the enthusiasm of the children and their parents for education; therefore I can't stop teaching. Many teachers left their jobs after being threatened by armed opposition groups, but I'm committed to continue teaching. The new generation of my country needs my support.
Last year in reaction to the threat of the Holy Qur'an being burned in the USA, there were big demonstrations in Kandahar. When I was busy on assessment mission at a high school, an angry mob came and attacked the school, broke down the doors and set fire to the furniture and the library. I and the rest of the teachers and students were afraid of being targeted.
The police reached the school and there were heavy clashes between police units and the demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators even had rifles. My husband arrived by a motorcycle and took me home.
In May this year, armed oppositions groups attacked another high school in Kandahar City. Some students were injured and the school was damaged. The school remained closed for several days, but has now reopened.
Attacks on schools and threatening teachers and students are a routine activity in KandaharCity. It is badly affecting the education of the children in the city, but the citizens of KandaharCity have a strong desire to continue their children's education. After each attack, the school remains closed for some days but always reopens.
In rural areas it is different. The threats and attacks impact the education sector in Kandahar province. In rural areas an attack often causes permanent closure of a school or sometimes of nearby schools. The number of students in KandaharCity is much less than other big cities in the country and girls make up just 25 percent of the students in the city. I participated in a visit by the provincial education department to different districts and saw there were a few schools open in center of each district, but all schools a distance of two kilometres or more from the centre of each district were closed. I can say there is a very little education available in rural areas of Kandahar province.
As an experienced teacher in a conflict-affected province of Afghanistan I urge the government of Afghanistan and the international community to double their efforts in reopening the schools and to provide protection and extra support to the students and teachers of the province.
As told to:
Abdul Samey Belal
Advocacy and Communications Advisor
CARE International in Afghanistan
Additional information about CARE's education work in Afghanistan:
CARE began its education activities in Afghanistan in 1994 with a pilot project in Khost province. Today, CARE is recognized in Afghanistan as a leader in community-based education, particularly for girls. The Community-based education approach is used to establish education services in communities that are beyond the reach of the current Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE) system. CARE establishes community education committees (CECs) to identify classrooms in houses and mosques, and identify potential teachers who are known and trusted by the community. CARE trains teachers, regularly visits classes to provide in-classroom coaching to teachers, and adds libraries. In some situations, CARE supports CECs to build their own small school buildings. Parents generally will not allow their daughters to walk to attend school outside their own community. But when the class is in the community and the teacher is known, girls will attend school. As a larger number of girls were receiving primary education, CARE has taken the lead to pilot and demonstrate the use of CBE classes to provide lower secondary education classes to girls as well.
CARE manages a number of education activities - including serving as the lead agency on a consortium of six NGOs implementing the Partnership for Advancing Community - based Education in Afghanistan (PACE - A) - a 5 - year USAID - funded project that has reached more than 125,000 Afghan children (68% girls), youth and adults in over 1000 remote communities. CARE works in partnership with the MoE and has played a key role in assisting the MoE develop a CBE policy to incorporate the CBE approach into its education for all strategy.