A Girl from Kandahar, Longing for Education

Spinning lightly and slowly, and with her every rhythmic movement of ballet, she dreams of great things. Childishly grows beautiful dreams like a flower in her heart. She wants all children, all her peers, to be like a free bird, to laugh, to dance, to fly lightly and recklessly. Little Hamida wishes that no child is familiar with war and has no worries other than childish freedoms.

Hamida Oluumi was born in Kandahar about twenty years ago. She spent the first years of her childhood in the traditional and closed city of Kandahar in insecurity and anxiety. Like many Afghan children, she has lived through dark nights and days for fear of explosions and suicide-attacks. When she was four years old, she witnessed an explosion that killed a number of children in their neighborhood. Children who were immersed in children’s games until a moment ago. At the age of four, her little heart became deeply saddened, and her childish gazes were filled with fear of war and explosion.

The insecure situation and the explosions in the city never diminished her childish desire for education. A place without doors, gates, chairs and educational equipment marked the first days of her entry into the world of education and school. Hamida’s memories of the school where she began her early education were nothing more than a ruin. Hamida studied for the first two years in Kandahar, and as she says, the strong interest of the neighborhood children, who were still going to school with love and a smile despite their unfortunate situation, motivated her to learn.

She was still a child when her family moved from Kandahar to Kabul. She was happy with the move because she had heard from her family that the educational situation in Kabul was better than in Kandahar and that there were more girls going to school. However, Hamida’s first experience at a school in Kabul was strange to her. She soon realized that the school in Kabul was not her dream place. Lack of materials, inexperienced teachers and low quality of lessons disappointed her. When she told her father about the idle hours she spent at school and that her teacher was not even able to pronounce the words correctly and teach, her father read in her eyes the height of Hamida’s desire for education and a wave of despair at the same time.

Soon Hamida’s educational place changed. She went to the Kabul International School, which had a better educational status, and continued her education. There she learned English and became acquainted with ballet and various sports, and when she was still young, she became a member of the school basketball team. In that school, she had good educational facilities and entertainment programs, but her mind was occupied with children who study under the scorching sun and without any educational facilities. In her childhood, she also thought of girls for whom going to school was just a dream. In 2015, the gate of Kabul International School was closed forever due to security threats to students and teachers. Thirteen-year-old Hamida saw her world dark and gloomy after hearing this news. She felt with all her being that she could no longer return to the classes adorned with their colorful paintings, that she could no longer play basketball and dance ballet. Hamida stayed away from all her dreams for two years. There was no school or place for recreation and sports.

After that, when Hamida was fifteen, she emigrated to the United States with her family. Like thousands of other immigrants, she faced challenges such as getting to know the new environment and culture, adapting to it, getting to know the language, and the like. She soon learned English and was able to resume her studies this time in a new place.

It did not take long for her to get used to the new environment and make many friends, but she never lost sight of the concerns of Afghan children. She told stories to her friends about girls studying in the scorching sun of Kandahar or in the broken, empty classes of Kabul. Hamida told her friends about the children’s dreams to go to school, and were deprived of education instead. She told her friends about her dreams and wishes; that she wants no child in Afghanistan to be deprived of education.

“When I see children in Afghanistan studying and working at the same time, it has a bad effect on me,” Hamida said. “The difference between children in the United States and Afghanistan is that children here do not find it difficult to learn. But in Afghanistan, the first issue is that access to this fundamental right is not easy. Also, a large number of children are breadwinners for their families and are engaged in hard labor. Those who have the chance to go to school do not have good educational facilities. This difference is very disturbing for me, who has a bitter experience.”

Finally, Hamida thought of doing something for the children. She recently set up the Afghanistan Aid Foundation (AFG-AID) to help educate children in Afghanistan. The latest activity at the organization is the collection of textbooks for children in Afghanistan. She is going to send some stationaries to Afghanistan for school students soon. It has also begun fundraising to establish a computer center and library for children in Afghanistan.

In addition, Hamida has formed a group on a social network that teaches English to children online in Afghanistan. “Education and peace are intertwined,” she said, adding that education is a solid foundation for peace. “For me, education today changes the world tomorrow, and for terrorists, preventing education means turning a blind eye to the world.”

An enthusiastic follower of the situation in Afghanistan, she says that women’s progress in recent years is remarkable and that these same women will stand up to those who deprive them of their rights and will not back down. Hamida believes that although change is time consuming, women’s efforts to achieve their rights are a good and hopeful step.

Hamida spoke last week at a large gathering organized by the American Red Cross about her aspirations for the future of children and the provision of their educational opportunities. She said that the future of the world depends on the path that human beings walk today and that everyone should take this path responsibly. Hamida called on everyone to work and contribute to the education of children everywhere in the world.

Hamida has beautiful dreams: “I am interested in the social sciences and I want to get my bachelor’s degree in this field from Columbia University. I wish to help all the children of the world who have been injured by the war. I want to win the Nobel Prize and one day be the president of Afghanistan.”