In a classroom in Kabul, a girl raises her hand. The teacher points to her and says her name, and Laiqa* comes to the front of the class. At the board, she spells out the word her teacher has asked of her, checking halfway through to make sure she’s on the right track. Her teacher smiles and nods her head. Her classmates clap for her and Laiqa returns to her seat, just that little bit prouder and more confident than before.
This is a kind of dream-come-true for Laiqa, an 11 year old from Afghanistan. In fact, it was her biggest wish to go to school and wear a school uniform, but her family was unable to send her. Like thousands of families in Afghanistan, they were too poor, so Laiqa stayed home all day with her mom to do house chores. When she and her mom left the house to do daily shopping and errands, Laiqa watched school girls in their black and white uniforms, standing with each other as they were going to school or coming home. She desperately wanted to be one of those girls.
Laiqa’s situation is not uncommon in Afghanistan, where the majority of children who are out of school are girls. Her mother explained:
Her mother’s education was interrupted by conflict in the country. Laiqa explained:
Her mom reflects on this:
Almost one year ago, Laiqa started attending Skateistan’s Back-to-School program. She had heard from her cousin that there was a place in Kabul where children who are out of school could attend, cover grades 1-3 in a year and subsequently be enrolled in public school. Laiqa comes to Skateistan every weekday. We pick her up from home, transport her safely to Skateistan where she attends three hours of lessons as well as having a chance to skateboard. She has a hot, healthy meal at Skateistan and then we drop her safely home.
“My parents were very happy that it is free and I can go to school. Skateistan was like a dream for me."
Her first day was scary as she didn’t know what to expect from Skateistan.
"It was Thursday that I came to Skateistan. I was feeling nervous; I wanted to start my education, but I was afraid of the teachers. I thought they would punish me when I cannot learn the lessons easily, but then I realized that my teacher here is kind. I can learn without fear."
Laiqa has now been attending the program for 10 months and she’s almost ready to graduate. She has been learning the Dari alphabet, spelling and simple arithmetic. We also make time to teach about other important lessons, such as health and hygiene. She has covered grades 1 and 2 and almost all of grade 3, so she’ll be ready to join the 4th grade in about one month’s time.
Her mother is so pleased with her progress and has high hopes for her daughter.
We asked Laiqa if she’ll still come to Skateistan once she has graduated from the Back-to-School program.
Skateistan has given Laiqa the chance at an entirely different future. We believe that educated girls are empowered girls and we strive for 50% girls’ participation in all our programs. At Skateistan, girls know they are safe. We provide a female friendly environment, with girls only sessions, female educators and role models and education which promotes equality. If you’d like to support more girls like Laiqa this International Women’s Day, please consider making a donation to Skateistan.
*Laiqa's name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan's Child Protection Policy.