Imagine you were appointed the Minister for Education in Afghanistan. Imagine you had the power to change anything you wanted about the schools across the country.

Tell me, what would you do?

What changes would you make in primary schools, high schools and universities?

Do you think boys and girls should study in a mixed class, or do you think girls will learn better in a class with just girls and boys in class with just boys?

What kind of women and men would you hire to be teachers? What kind of education and personality do you think our teachers should exhibit?

Are there subjects that you think should be taught in Afghanistan that are not currently taught? Are there subjects you think should no longer be on the curriculum?

These are some of the many questions I would consider.

When a child goes to school early in the morning and expects to come home with new knowledge and information, we must ensure they are given the best opportunity to learn and grow. As I write this story, bombs continue to go off on the streets as children walk to school. Children take the risk because having an education means that much.

This is the reality in Afghanistan.

If I was appointed the Minister of Education in Afghanistan, I would change almost everything in our education system.
From the quality delivered at a primary, secondary and tertiary level, to the many gender considerations that need to take place to the subjects that are offered to the credentials of our teachers.

In Afghanistan, a young girl will face countless obstacles in a bid to access an education. While it is our human right to have an education, just like every other person in this world, only 15% of women in Afghanistan have access to an education. The biggest problem however, starts in the home.

Most women and girls are not allowed to go outside without their father’s or brother’s or husband’s permission. Then once outside, they are faced with the rest of Afghanistan, which does not treat them as equal.

I remember asking questions of my teacher at school and instead of helping me to understand, she would say: “Oh, shame on you! You don’t know this!”

One day I asked my chemistry teacher how water was made because the periodical table confused me. She responded: “God made it! You don’t know this yet? Haha!” And then there were the times I felt sick, but was told I wasn’t allowed to go home and rest. I had to remain in class until the end of the day. I asked fewer questions over the years. I got used to being called stupid and foolish, and in time, started to believe it. Our teachers need to be trained to listen and actively help students to learn by practicing compassion and patience.

I was hard working student and still am. I read lots and taught myself. I was awarded first place in my school and presented with top place at the American University of Afghanistan that I attend in Kabul. Many times though, while studying in our library, I noticed that many of the students, my classmates, were illiterate. They could not write their own name. This deeply saddened me because if these university positions are given to people who are meant to lead the future of Afghanistan, I don’t have great confidence. We need a system that rewards excellence and aids others who have been left behind. It doesn’t currently.

Our educational system does not value extra-curricula activities like sport, art, computer and language classes.

I did not play any kind of sport while in school. During the time we were meant to playing soccer or netball, our teachers instead told us to sit in class and speak about our family issues. When it comes to creativity, we are not encouraged to think innovatively and critically. Our systems teach us to rope learn by memorising years, date, facts, formulas, elements, words, even the biographies of people. Everything is learnt through memorisation and not in practical ways.

Our classerooms are not co-educational. Girls study among girls, and boys study among boys. I think this is not supportive of life outside of school. A co-ed system would promote healthy competition and encourage students, both girls and boys, to focus and try their best. This set up would also help students to make the transition to university, which is co-ed.

Instead of education resources like paper, pens and books, students are given stable food products like oil, flour and rice to take home to their families. We need more funding to invest in creating more resources for students so they can do their homework and apply themselves in the best way they can.

I believe that nothing is impossible. We can bring about change in Afghanistan, but we first need to change how people access education in our country and the quality we provide. We can’t remain ignorant anymore.

If I was the Minister of Education, I would act now.

Would you?
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