KABUL, Afghanistan, 23 December 2013 – Before arriving at the Charahi Qambar camp for internally displaced people, 16-year-old Agha LaLay had never attended school. He didn’t know how to read, didn’t know how to write, and his math skills were nonexistent.
That was five years ago. His family, like many of the families here, fled their home in Helmand province to escape constant fighting. They joined thousands of other people living in this camp.
“When we came to this camp, life was pretty difficult for us,” he says. “We had no water, no food. We faced a lot of problems.”
Although relatively peaceful, life here is difficult, too. LaLay lives in a small cluster of mud-brick buildings with 19 relatives. There is still no running water, no toilet, and no electricity. Food is always in short supply. Most of the adults can’t read or write.
But fortunately for LaLay, UNICEF partner Aschiana Foundation is working to improve the prospects for children in the camps by helping them get an education.
Sayed Najibullah is a teacher for Aschiana. On this day, like many days, he is inside the UNICEF-supplied tent that serves as the classroom for the camp’s children. One moment he’s standing at the front, lecturing to the young students sitting on the floor; the next moment, he’s crouched in the corner, helping a shy girl conquer her fear of speaking aloud in a tent crammed full of eager students.
“As you know, people in the camps are from war-affected provinces,” he says. “They have brilliant minds and brilliant talent. They just need the guidance and education to get them back on track. The right track means education, a pen and a book, which will build their future.”
Aschiana has been setting up tent classrooms in various camps, with the goal of educating children so they can be integrated into the regular school system. This year, 750 children, including LaLay, have made the jump. LaLay says he now dreams of becoming an engineer.
“I never attended school before coming here,” he says. “Now I know education plays a vital role in building one’s character and future. It can help you become a teacher, a doctor or an engineer.”
LaLay says he is excited for the future, despite the challenges he’s faced adjusting to life in the city. Education, he says, will give the people of this camp the tools they need to build good, productive lives.
Story by Thomas Nybo