The Story of a Teacher: Empty Classes and Meager Salaries
Sometimes I decide to go to the mountains and valleys where no one can hear my voice, to cry from the bottom of my heart and to soothe my sorrow with a shout. I want to talk about my sufferings with mountains and rocks and say that I wish I had not chosen the profession of a teacher and not faced all these misfortunes. I reckon with myself that if I were a peddler, I might have a better life. Sometimes I doubt the sacredness of a teacher’s career and I cannot consider teaching a sacred job. It is difficult to be satisfied with a job that you cannot find the minimum daily expenses.
Afghan teachers, especially private school teachers, have suffered two major setbacks in the past two years. First, there was a time when schools had to be closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, during which time most teachers did not receive salaries and had to borrow large sums of money. The second case was when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and the school was closed again. In the second phase, a large number of teachers lost their jobs because female students were not allowed to attend classes. This was a devastating blow, as it affected not only the teachers but also a large number of students and their parents.
With the rise of the Taliban, the families’ ability to afford basic needs has strained. To the extent that some families cannot even afford a book or booklet for their children. We had families who not only paid their children’s dues on time but also bought incentive gifts for their children and paid the dues several months in advance. These days, not only can these families not pay their children’s dues, but some cannot even afford textbooks and essentials such as pens, booklets, and books.
One day I reminded a student that when he writes with a pencil, why not use an eraser when he makes a mistake? This was repeated several times and one day I talked to him seriously.
“Sir, my family does not pay me to buy an eraser,” he replied.
Earlier this month, we told fourth-graders to bring their fees on Saturday. “Sir, where does the money come from in this time of unemployment?” our youngest student said. “People are left homeless these days. If you wish to teach us, teach for free. If you do not teach for free, we have no money.”
A child who did not know before how and when his dues are paid is now thinking about his families’ expenses and living. It really burns a person’s heart and soul.
When the Taliban denied girls’ education in secondary and high schools, the number of female pupils in elementary schools dropped by about 20 percent. Students may attend the classes, but they are not motivated to study. They say they will not be allowed to study beyond the sixth grade, so why bother and study so much?
Most of the students at the school where I teach were girls, who formed the backbone of the school. They were really hardworking and forward-looking people. There were people who had big goals and wanted to be doctors, engineers, judges and prosecutors. But unfortunately, we have missed them in school right now. Taking into account the female students from the seventh to the twelfth grade, in total, our school has lost thirty-five to forty percent of its students. As the number of students decreases, some of our teachers and colleagues have lost their jobs and, consequently, their ability to provide food for their families due to the lack of a classroom.
After the Taliban took control of Kabul, most male students lost their momentum as well, especially the ninth to twelfth graders. Many of them went to Iran or are at home, busy with daily chores, or unemployed. When we ask them why they do not attend school, they say they have no motivation to study. They say as the Taliban denied girls’ rights to education, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow they will not allow the boys as well. About nineteen to eighteen percent of male students in ninth grade and above have dropped out of school. However, a large number of 11th grade male students do not attend school, and our 12th graders have been completely canceled due to the absence of students.
Teachers’ salaries have also fallen by 20 percent as students leave and the school’s income decreases. Teachers, most of whom are the sole supporters of families of at least six to eight people, struggle with poverty and misery. During the break times in school, teachers often talk about the high price of flour, oil, and other food supplies.
[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Humayoun Hamdard’s Story, Hasht-e Subh Persian[/box]