Afghan refugee makes possible girls’ education in camps

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Rafiullah Mandokhail
Quetta

Almost four decades back, millions of Afghans began fleeing the violence in their country and migrated to neighboring Pakistan. According to an estimate, Pakistan currently hosts 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees and another one million unregistered. Half of the migrated Afghan refugee population settled in the ten refugee camps in different parts of Balochistan including Pishin, Noshki, Muslim Bagh, and Loralai districts.

A child was born to an Afghan family in 1986 in the Band Khushdil Khan area of Pishin district. The parents named him Zahir Khan but later on Zahir Pashtoon. After few years, in 1987 the Afghan family moved from Band Khushdil Khan to Saranan Afghan refugee camp in the district. In 1993, the Ministry of SAFRON established two schools at Saranan camp, where Zahir also got himself enrolled with the other Afghan children.

Over time, Save the Children also opened more schools for boys and girls in the camp of thousands of Afghan refugees. The community made up of labourers and daily wage workers strongly opposed girl’s education in general while co-education in particular as they could not understand the importance of girls’ education. Despite all odds and criticism, Zahir Pashtoon left no stone unturned to continue the girls’ education project. Teachers were hired from the provincial capital Quetta to teach the girls as there was no female teacher in the slum.

After few years, it was stipulated that the girl who passed the sixth grade and the boy who passed matriculation would be given a job as a teacher. Eager to study and move on, Zahir Pashtoon passed the written test and finally appointed as a teacher. He started teaching the poor and unfortunate boys as well as girls with dedication also in leisure time. Save the Children awarded him the Best Performance Award. Due to the negative attitude of the people, the girls’ school was once again closed but reopened with the support and hectic efforts of Zahir.