Baby Amina was just two hours old when three gunmen adorning police uniforms entered a hospital in Dashte Barchi area of Kabul, Afghanistan and opened fire in its maternity ward. Out of the 26 mothers and expectant mothers, ten fled to the safe rooms. Baby Amina and her mother Bibi Nazia, however, weren’t two of them. The horrific mass shooting on May 12, 2020, killed 24 newborns, mothers and medical staff of the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) assisted hospital. Baby Amina survived with two bullets but lost her mother.
War has waged in Afghanistan for several years but never before has a deadly massacre been directly targeted at mothers and children. The Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for the attacks, however, they have denied their involvement. According to this Reuters report, “the U.S. government said that ISIL–KP conducted the 12 May attacks, not the Taliban, but this assertion was rejected by Afghan officials.” As the investigations continue, several more civilians have been killed in further attacks across the country in the holy month of Ramadan. Several newborns have lost their parents. With no financial and emotional care, most of these infants will grow up to earn a living on the streets as young children.
Out of the UNICEF estimate of 143 million orphans in the world, 1.6 million alone are in Afghanistan. Most of them are unable to access any education — 3.7 million children in the country are unable to attend school. Unsurprisingly, 60% of these are girls. Times like these not just call for immediate relief work but also a grassroots level change in the society. But international peace dialogues and policy work need to be coupled with something much more tangible and immediate. This includes encouraging education which will help in eroding several intersectional issues in both the short-term and the long-term.
Resonating these thoughts, the SOAS Afghan Society has been raising funds towards the ‘Educate an Orphan‘ project—an initiative by the UK- registered charity called ‘Noble Connection’ that aims to finance the primary school education of orphans in Afghanistan. The charity has several projects running in Afghanistan, most notably the ‘winter-packs project’, where food and clothes are provided to needy families as identified by local partner organisations. For this project too, Noble Connection has a local partner organisation on the ground to deliver the project under the supervision of charity’s trustee.
According to the SOAS Afghan Society President, Jasmin Amiri, a 2nd-year Politics and Economics student, the collaboration with this charity came about to be through the ‘Afghan Charity Week’. This was an initiative designed by students from the Afghan societies of 13 universities across London who collectively held events in February 2020 to raise funds for a war-torn Afghanistan. These included cultural, comedy and film nights, bake sales and sports tournaments. The SOAS Afghan Society too organised a bake sale as well as a debate night with LSE on campus, discussing various political and humanitarian issues plaguing the country. To conclude the week, a charity dinner was held where pledges were made by guests.
The fundraiser was set up to fulfil these pledges worth £600, but following the May 12 attacks, the fundraiser has become all the more significant with the target amount rising considerably. As of May 20th, the SOAS Afghan Society has raised £1,056 through their fundraising page bringing the grand total for the 13 universities to £41,781. However, the fundraiser continues in order to provide for as many children in need.
The SOAS Afghan society thus appeals for funds for the ‘Educate An Orphan’ project. However, they also believe while funding is a tangible asset to fulfil short-term goals, it is not enough for a country like Afghanistan where the right to education remains abysmal.
Talking about this Jasmin Amiri states, “I think simply providing funds for schools and teachers has not and will not suffice the education sector for many reasons such as corruption, low-life expectancies, poor health-care, unawareness in making judicious use of money etc. The global community could help in teaching life skills as well as academic skills to improve communication skills, financial literacy and overall health. This will encourage a mentally and physically healthy workforce.
The society strongly believes that education, should be a basic right and not a privilege and urges for innovative ways to tackle the various crisis alongside donating. “The international student body could train teachers either remotely or on the ground. For example, a group of medical students from KCL have been training medical staff in Afghanistan on how to use ventilators and other equipment through video calls during the COVID crisis. Of course, language and technological barriers may make this challenging. However, an effort in this regard will subsequently lead to a better quality of life in Afghanistan,” Amiri adds.
Giving someone the gift of education will change the life of not just one, but of generations to come. Like Kofi Annan states, “Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development.”
To donate to this cause, check out the crowd-funding page here.
To learn more about the SOAS Afghan Society, click here.
Devyani Nighoskar is a 24-year-old SOAS Digital Ambassador from India. A former journalist, she is currently pursuing her M.A in Critical Media and Cultural Studies. You may check out her work on Instagram @runawayjojo
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