Razia's Ray of Hope

Razia’s Ray of Hope News

News about the foundation, girls' education, and women's rights in Afghanistan

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The Boston Globe: Outside war-torn Kabul, a school soldiers on

The Boston Globe: The news from Afghanistan is grim. Suicide attacks are frequent, and in January the Taliban and ISIS launched attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel and offices of Save the Children, killing and injuring hundreds.

Sixteen years after a US-led effort overthrew the Taliban, the insurgents are believed to still be active in more than half the country. The US Department of Defense has spent about $2 trillion in Afghanistan, and the number of our troops there is expected to double this spring.

But in a village not far from war-torn Kabul lies a rare success story, and it’s the work of two women with Boston-area roots. The Zabuli Education Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary of doing what has long been unthinkable. It educates Afghan girls, from preschool through high school.

Razia Jan, an Afghan native who has spent decades in Marshfield and Duxbury, started the school with about 100 girls. It now boasts 650 and is forced to turn away many others because of space and funding. The executive director of Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation is Patti Quigley of Wellesley. Read the full article here.

Student Profile: Mesbah

Mesbah started attending the Zabuli Education Center in 2016 as a kindergartener. She is now eight years old and in the 2nd grade.

Mesbah is an intelligent, kind, and punctual girl. She has a clear love for her teacher and classmates, especially Eman, her best friend in class. Mesbah shares her lunch with Eman everyday; they have a deep friendship. Mesbah’s favorite subject is English and her favorite part of the school day is playing on the playground. She loves to run with her classmates during their breaks.

Mesbah has four siblings, two of whom are at a public school in Deh’Subz. Her mother is a homemaker and her father is a police officer. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her dolls and playing peek-a-boo. Mesbah hopes to become an English teacher when she grows up.

Student Profile: Eman

Eman is 7 years old and is in the 2nd grade at the Zabuli Education Center.

Eman has eight siblings, four of whom finished school. Her father is a driver and her mother is a principal at a public school in Deh'Subz.
 
Eman started attending the Zabuli Education Center as a kindergartener in 2016. She loves her school and classmates very much. Her favorite subjects are English and Dari.  Eman's favorite part of school is spending time in the library; she particularly enjoys when her teacher reads stories aloud and shows the pictures of the story during the reading.
 
Eman is an intelligent, kind, and thoughtful girl. She likes playing toys and dolls with her classmates and in her spare time she is fond of playing peek-a-boo.
 
Eman hopes to become an eye doctor when she grows up.

The Razia Jan Institute for Midwifery - Update

An update on the Midwifery program at the Razia Jan Institute by Malak Yusuf, Program Director:
 

The Midwifery program at the Razia Jan Institute is in its inaugural year and just concluded the 2nd semester exams. The current class has 22 students, 14 of whom are graduates of the Zabuli Education Center. An incoming Midwifery class of around 18-22 students will begin their program in March or April 2018. Many of the graduating Zabuli Education Center 12th graders will undergo the pre-entrance exams for the Razia Jan Institute for Midwifery to determine whether this would be a viable post-secondary career opportunity. 
 
During my time at at the Razia Jan Institute, I met the three midwifery teachers, Razia (the head coordinator of the Razia Jan Institute), and the crew taking care of Institute's facilities, all working with intention and commitment. The program building is located adjacent to the Zabuli Education Center in a clean two-story property. The students are also continuing their English language classes at the Institute.
 
Each week, the midwifery students have 2-3 days of in-classroom work, and 3-4 practicum days at off-site health clinics and hospitals. The Razia Jan Institute currently holds practicums at three Deh'Subz area health clinics, as well as the Mirbachakot District Hospital, which is a 90-minute bus ride from the Institute - quite rural in comparison to Kabul city. On practicum days, the students are separated into groups of 4-6 to rotate at the clinics or hospitals to all receive uniform trainings in varying rural and semi-urban settings.
 
I had the opportunity to accompany six midwifery students on a hospital visit to the Mirbachakot District Hospital.  Here are some hospital statistics:

 

* Up to 10-20 births/day during busy times
* Separate section for women and men
* RJI students break up into pairs (or individual) and spend day in each of the 4 areas in the hospital
1. Vaccination
2. Labor
3. Delivery
4. Neonatal care 
 (Family planning will be an additional area with more coursework)

I was very impressed and proud of our Razia Jan Institute students! The second they arrive at the hospital, they hurriedly change into hospital gear and get to work. On a typical hospital day, they spend the whole day on their feet from 8am to 6pm caring for mothers and infants in a very densely populated and fast-paced hospital. They are so dedicated to the severity of their work, are extremely helpful and professional towards hospital staff, nurses, and doctors, and really seem to love what they are doing. Many RJI students admittedly enjoy giving immunization shots, and assessment in deliveries.  
 
From my initial observations, the RJI Midwifery students' knowledge and experience over these 2 years will undoubtedly translate positively into an in-demand occupation as community midwives and health workers to support the dire need of reversing high maternal and infant mortality occurrences. This has the potential to have a hugely  beneficial long-term impact on the lives of many women, children, and communities in Afghanistan.  

Graduation at the Zabuli Education Center!

On Saturday, December 16, the Zabuli Education Center held its third graduation ceremony! A firsthand account from Malak Yusuf, Program Director:
 
Razia Jan, Nahid, Zia, Zubair, Razia the principal, the teachers at the Zabuli Education Center, many current students, and the whole school staff worked so hard and diligently to help make the graduation a huge success. I was very impressed and proud of the entire event. Eighteen intelligent and dedicated 12th grade students graduated. This year's graduation also marked new beginnings and traditions that were so beautiful and heart-warming to witness.

As the third consecutive Zabuli Education Center graduation, this year saw more female than male family and community members present to support the girls' graduation and education. More mothers, aunts, sisters, all so proud of the women in their families, were here today. Men who were present included Deh'Subz village elders, students' fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and husbands.
 
Among the graduates, 3 students are married, 2 are pregnant, and 1 student just had a baby. Meanwhile, 12 engaged girls are currently enrolled at the Zabuli Education Center. I mention these numbers because culturally in Afghanistan, it is not common at all (and oftentimes forbidden) for students who are engaged, married, or have children to attend school. The Zabuli Education Center is setting a prime example that more Afghan girls and women are gaining a valuable education and career path with the support of their families and community.  
 
 

 
Ahead of graduation, Nahid and Razia Jan bless dates to distribute to all Zabuli Education Center students and staff for well wishes for end of the school year and a sweet beginning for the next.

 
Razia Jan lead the opening remarks. Her speech was powerful. She thanked the community, and particularly the village elders, for their continued support and care for the Zabuli Education Center over the past year, yet beckoned them to continue this support for years to come. "Without your daily support," Razia said, "the [Zabuli Education Center] would not be the wonderful school, and safe haven for Afghan girls, that it is today."
 

Zabuli Education Center school staff and family of graduates in attendance.
 

Three former Zabuli Education Center graduates who are now attending the American University of Afghanistan were present for the graduation ceremony.

 

 Fathers of graduates (and village elders) take turns handing out diplomas.
A first in the history of the Zabuli Education Center!

Post-graduation celebrations!

 

Caps off in the snow!

 

Results Announcement Day at the Zabuli Education Center

On December 14, the Zabuli Education Center held its annual Results Announcement Day. Malak Yusuf, Program Director, gives her account of this important day:
 
On Results Day, preceding the grade 12 graduation ceremony, all grades are present to receive their semester grades and recognition. It was such a special day! I had yet to meet the younger students because their classes had ended. Briefly speaking with them and seeing their enthusiasm in progressing into next year's grade was a motivating and heart-warming experience!  

There was so much emotion and joy from the students that some girls were brought to tears from all of the excitement. It is a great honor to receive the recognition of earning the first, second, and third highest GPA per grade. In a large, school wide ceremony, the top three students per grade are called up to receive a certificate of achievement, while the rest of the students receive their class certificates in their individual classrooms.

Naturally, the students of grade 12 were especially ecstatic to be nearing graduation. They were jumping up and down from happiness as their class' top grades were revealed and they officially received their class marks.  I have grown very fond of the grade 12 class during my time here, so I was especially moved by their positivity in embarking on the next chapter of their life.  Many of them will aim to join the midwifery program at the Razia Jan Institute, while others will target admission into American University of Afghanistan and other universities and vocational programs. 
 
This was a special day and I feel so honored to have been a part of it!
 
Warm Regards,
 
Malak Yusuf
Program Director
 
Before Results Day began, the kindergarteners (rising 1st graders)
gathered in a classroom to enjoy baked goods and apple juice,
as a gift from the contribution of Mrs. Janet Ketchum.
Her gift also afforded them all new winter jackets, which
we fitted for them one by one, to help ensure they stay warm
in wintry Kabul!
 
There has been significant snowfall this year!
 
Nahid, Principal Razia, and Razia Jan lead in opening remarks for
this year's Results Announcement Day.
 
Razia Jan cheers on the first, second, and third ranking students from
each grade; they are given a certificate of achievement and
stationary gifts.
 

Kindergarten Student Registration Day at the Zabuli Education Center

A personal report from Malak Yusuf, our Program Manager:

Today, the Zabuli Education Center hosted its annual Kindergarten Student Registration Day. Mothers, fathers, and family members brought in pre-registered students (mostly ages 5-8, with varying literacy levels) all being placed into kindergarten (or first and second grade if more literate). The Zabuli Education Center has admitted 50 new kindergarten students for the new school year, which begins March 2018.

Throughout the registration process, I was especially happy to see Deh'Subz area fathers and uncles bringing in their daughters/nieces, and their eyes brightly lighting up at the prospect of seeing their young girls admitted into school. In some cases, many of these same girls were not allowed to attend beforehand (cultural/familial choice), but now more of the community is witnessing the value of girls' education in Deh'Subz.

Razia Jan, Nahid Alawi, myself, and another Zabuli Education Center teacher, Waheeda, all engaged in the registration process meeting each student individually to determine her correct grade level and literacy ability. They are cute us buttons!

First Week at the Zabuli Education Center and Razia Jan Institute

An update from Malak Yusuf, Program Director, on the first week with Razia Jan at the Zabuli Education Center and the Razia Jan Institute:
 
Everyone is incredibly kind and so devoted to the school girls and midwifery students, especially Nahid, Zia, Razia the principal, and the whole school staff. Zubair is also a huge help for all of the school's needs.  I'm so impressed and proud of how hard-working the whole staff is, and of course meeting all of the students has been wonderful!  
 
The Zabuli Education Center building is very nice and clean with 3 levels. The school has very organized and well situated classrooms, student desks, and supplies, as well as a library with a plethora of books, a computer center, and a science lab. I am writing exact numbers of resources in my notes to report on.
 
The students are undergoing their exams this week prior to the grade results announcement day next Thursday, and then the grade 12 graduation on December 17. I have spent some time with the grade 11 and 12 girls this week, and they even pulled me into a classroom to put henna on my hand!  (photo below) They are beyond sweet and so excited about their education. I'll see more of the younger students next week during the results day. The teachers are also incredibly kind. They have been working very hard this week administering and proctoring exams, and grading away in the teacher's lounge room. I will speak with them more after the grading is complete. 
 
The midwifery students at the Razia Jan Institute are also amazing; they are so full of energy and excitement about their medical work. They are doing daily rotations at 3 nearby clinics in Deh'Subz, as well as the closest hospital, which is a 90 minute drive. Their favorite aspect of their practicum so far is being with the pregnant mothers and children and giving the kids polio vaccination shots.  
 
It has been an unforgettable experience to be with the students, teachers, and of course Razia. I look forward reporting more in the coming weeks!
 
Warm Regards,
 
Malak Yusuf
Program Director
 

Video Conference: Carlisle Middle School

In November, our students at the Zabuli Education Center had the opportunity to speak with students from Carlisle Middle School in Carlisle, MA via video conference. Students on each side came prepared with questions to talk about differences in culture, school, and government. Because of the time difference, both groups were together outside of normal school hours. They each shared a meal after the call - our students shared dinner, and the Carlisle Middle School students shared breakfast!

Final Term Exams at Zabuli Education Center

It’s exam time! The end of the year means final term exams throughout the Zabuli Education Center. Kindergarten through third grade started their week-long exams on November 14 and finished on November 21. Grades 4-12 started their exams on November 22 and will finish on December 10. We are so proud of all of the hard work that our students have done throughout the term!