An open-air school in Kabul allows dreams of a better future (even under the Taliban)

Wazir Khan, a 23-year-old activist, set up Today Child in Bagrami, 17 km from downtown Kabul, where, with a group of volunteers, he holds lessons for about 1,000 boys and girls, and goes door-to-door to speak to families about the importance of education, even amid today’s desperate situation in Afghanistan.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – The Afghan population has been deprived of a future since the Taliban took over the country again in almost two years.

Since then, 90 per cent of the population has been plunged into poverty; most are food insecure, and girls and women have been denied their rights.

The United Nations estimates that at least six million children have been denied the right to an education with the start of the new school year.

While the international community is still stuck between the need to send humanitarian aid and the refusal to recognise the Taliban regime, some are still dreaming of giving children a different future.

Wazir Khan, 23, is one of them. About a year ago he founded Today Child, "a school that offers free education in rural areas," he told AsiaNews.

In fact, it is not a real school with a roof, classrooms, desks and school supplies. Wazir teaches classes outdoors thanks to a portable blackboard, while the children, who can follow the teachings for up to two years, listen to him sitting on the ground.

And they come in all kinds of weather, even when the temperature drops below zero. "They are eager to learn,” Wazir explains, “and are happy to have this opportunity. So are their parents." Girls are in the front row.

"I am originally from Baghlan province, but I live in Kabul," the young teacher said. Noting that he started with a handful of students, he now has "1,000 pupils". The “school” is located in Batkhak in the Bagrami district of the capital, where there are no state schools.

"I started as an activist a year ago because there were no schools for girls," he explained. "I saw children in rural areas who didn't have the opportunity to learn, so I decided to jump into education."

With a group of volunteers, Wazir is moving in two directions. On the one hand, he is trying to build a school building for local children; on the other hand, he is leading a “door-to-door campaign to find children", speaking to families about Today Child and "raising awareness among parents about drug use and children's rights".

Batkhak is about 17 kilometres from downtown Kabul and most of the residents farm and raise livestock. "Volunteers work completely free of charge,” Wazir said. “They are not financially supported by any person or organisation.”

The shockwaves caused by the return of the Taliban are still being felt by the Afghan population, Wazir said. Despite a 20-year war, young people were free to go to school. Then, everything vanished in an instant, but Wazir decided not to give up, nor did his pupils.

His school also takes in children with disabilities, like Hamid, 10, who moves on a wheelchair. When he comes to school, Hamid stays in the front row, next to the girls so he can easily reach the blackboard to write. Perhaps, if his school had had desks, walls and stairs all this would not be possible.