Education International

ATROAfghan Teachers' Rights Observatory

Testimony

Anonymous, female teacher

Becoming a teacher was a job that was beyond love for me, a job that could be labeled the mother of all jobs, a job that was my childhood game. I grew up with the dream of being a teacher, becoming a teacher and remaining a teacher, I grew up and finally reached that goal.

I remember when I became a teacher, I realized the decency of this job, I realized that my path in this life had been destined since childhood. I realized the love and affection and the passion that flowed from nowhere in my being and unknowingly came to me every day.

Every time I stood in front of my students, I asked myself If I were married and had children, could I love them so much? If I had a personal home, would this school be as dear to me? Every day, fear filled my being that I could one day lose this love that I was tied to, lest I encounter an unwanted destiny in which there is no talk of becoming a teacher and remaining a teacher, lest I grow old, bored, and unable to teach.

By now, I am the mother of six small children who lost their father to the war with the Taliban. Being a teacher was not only my love, but a piece of bread for these orphans of mine, a sip of water for their hungry lips, and our home to shelter from water, wind and rain.

The morning the Taliban entered Kabul - just like the dust on a rock that dies in a drizzle, and everything is gone, it was a sinister morning and I wish it had been a false dawn. Suddenly it was a fake morning, and no sun was rising.

That morning I got into a taxi with anxiety and distress to see my students as if it were going to be the last time. If death is written in my destiny on the same day, I will be in my teachers’ clothes, I will hold a pen in my hand and say goodbye to the world of being a teacher.

In the taxi, the women were talking to each other, saying that they would not give up their duties and do whatever the Taliban wanted. It would not matter to them, they would walk around in a chador and sit in a corner of the house, but their dignity and modesty would not be violated.

When I entered the school, it was as if I had entered a hell, where everyone was a stranger. Everyone’s appearance had changed with no sign of uniforms and makeup at all. It seemed that everyone was afraid of each other and as if Kabul had been suffocated.

I put aside all my fears and anxieties in my classroom and taught the last lesson of my life on “Hope”. Something that only came out of my being at that symbolic moment. When I was writing the subject of the lesson on the board, I even felt alienated from its letters.

Suddenly someone opened the door of the classroom, and the deputy of the school asked that all students be released and that all the teachers should leave the school. In an instant, fear took over everyone’s existence. Everyone wandered aimlessly, filled with sorrow, despair and hopelessness. Silence and the terror of death pervaded the school.

I was coming up the stairs when I saw that all my female colleagues had changed out of their uniforms, and were wearing the same black hijabs and wearing masks. There was not even a glimpse of their eyes. I realized the greatness of this sadness. I realized the cruelty of history and that no progress could be made for Afghan women.

I realized that today is a day to travel twenty years back and my whole body was shaking, I had no control over my movements. I needed a place to cry out all my anxiety and fears, I needed a place where I could at least bury my hopes, my goals and my dreams. I found all words, letters, and sentences incomplete to express the anxieties and pains of my day.

Days passed and I was following all the news in the media to keep up with the news of the opening of schools. Every day, I checked the website of the Ministry of Education to see when the re-opening of schools would be announced.

Contrary to expectations, three weeks after the regime change, the order to open schools was issued, but only for the boys.

The Taliban had offered interesting and irrational conditions. For example, one of the conditions was that no female teacher has the right to teach the twelfth grade, and every teacher must be obliged to observe all Islamic principles and laws to occupy her job, and always wear the same Islamic dress or hijab.

The problem was that most of Afghanistan’s schoolteachers were female, because no man was willing to do this job because of the meager salary the Afghan government provided for teachers.

One day, one of our neighbors told a bitter story about the changes in the rules and the division of school hours. He told me that out of 16 subjects, only 8 subjects had been retained in the daily schedule because most of the subjects were taught by women. Even basic subjects, which include mathematics, chemistry, and physics, had not been included.

And many other basic subjects are taught by non-professional professors, and most of them focus on the lessons and stories of adolescence and listening to the bittersweet stories and memories of students during school hours instead of teaching the subject.

We soon consumed everything, and I worried about how to get bread and food for the children, how to arrange payment for the rent, electricity and water.

Zamtsan was on its way. With every leaf falling from the trees, all my hopes were shattered. I ran out of all the food I had saved from my livelihood. I ate only dry bread and tea with my children for three days and nights. I witnessed the sinking of the cheeks of my sweet children, and enduring this was most painful for me.

Sometimes I thought to myself that I wish I did not love my husband so much. I wish I had not made any promise to him that I would not remarry. I wish all these things did not happen, no one can take the place of death, but I wish someone would come and stop all these other things. I wish my children were not taught in this way, at least in these circumstances, their merit and talent is beyond such teaching. I wish I was a teacher and that I would die a teacher.

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All testimonies