What if you were never allowed to go to school?Posted: October 9, 2013 | |
What if you were never allowed to go to school? That is just one of the questions author Elizabeth Suneby posed to my fourth and fifth grade students during her visit to our school yesterday. Because, as she explained, there are sixty-nine million school-aged children worldwide who are denied an education due to poverty, political instability, war, natural disaster or tradition. A hefty topic to discuss with the nine to eleven year old set, but Liz captivated her audience with an interactive program well-suited to upper elementary school students.
If you have been following my blog, you might remember my April post about Liz’s book, Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education. Full disclosure, I was privy to it pre-pub due to the fact that Liz is my sister-in-law. But I can assure you my April review was unbiased and today’s post is as well.
This author visit was not the typical “this is the process an author follows to write a book”. There were no galleys, no examples of endless revisions and no book signings. In fact, she hardly spoke about herself at all. Because the topic of her most recent book is so powerful and so important, the visit was mainly devoted to what inspired her to write this fictionalized account of the building of the Zabuli Education Center, a free private school for girls, in the Afghan village of Deh’Subz, and the young girl who dreams of attending it.
Our students were well prepared for the visit. We had read and discussed the book, generated questions for the author and done some quick research about Afghanistan. Due to this preparation, they were an especially attentive audience because they brought their curiosity about a world where women wear burqas, girls are not permitted to go to school and female literacy hovers around 14%.
The wearing of burqas proved to be of particular interest. Neither the girls nor the boys could understand why a woman would be required to be covered and hidden in such a way. Liz had been able to borrow two burqas for willing volunteers to try on. She recruited one boy and one girl in each grade who shared what it felt like—hot, stuffy, claustrophobic, itchy, and virtually impossible to see out of. A hands-on experience that was truly an eye-opener.
Liz showed the students videos of the schoolgirls, the school and Razia Jan, its founder. The children were surprised to discover that while the homes have no electricity and little furniture, the school not only has desks, chairs and electricity, but also computers and Internet service.
The presentation ended with the question “How can YOU make a difference?”
The students left inspired and empowered. Ideas for fundraising percolated. A meeting was set up with the principal. I do believe these children will make a difference. Stay tuned.