FOR MANY EDUCATED  AFGHANS  -great and quality education exists at the University of Oxford, thousands of kilometers away in the UK  All said with a deep anguish and sigh!

But for  5th-grader siblings Gulalai and Janwali, Oxford is located just about six kilometres from their mud-thatched home, that has no running tap water, sewage system or electricity.

They get up early and hail down any passing vehicle to drop them near the Pak-Afghan Torkham border gate. Along with hundreds of others, they cross over the border in their orange school uniform that serve as a sort of visa.

Sometimes when the  Mighty Torkham  gate is closed, the students must traverse steep terrain to reach their school. This has now become a beautiful routine for many.

Around  600 Afghan students cross every day to attend the  *Oxford Public High School*   a private  English-medium institute in the Bacha Maina area adjacent to the border. 

It was founded in 1995 to provide quality education to children residing on both sides of the volatile border area. Afghan students  -who cannot afford admission in schools in Jalalabad city or cannot travel up to the Landi Kotal border town   -come from Daka, Garde Ghaus, Och Kot and Lund Kot areas.

No matter what the policy issues between Islamabad and  Kabul, quality education is the very first priority for these Afghan students.

Noor Said, a resident of Torkham locality, thought it appropriate to invest his money in building a private school that he dreamed would attract poor population from across the border. His plan proved sound.

As both the owner and principal of  Oxford Public High School, he claims that his school has produced several batches of Afghan students who have gone on to study in that country's universities   -in fields such as engineering, information technology, medicine and agriculture-

And who are now serving in positions of authority, including the national army. He adds that some graduates of his high school also serve in the education and police departments in Kabul and other cities. The school, he believes, can help build a permanent bridge of peace between the neighbouring countries.

Momin Khan, a  7th grade student explains:
'' My elder cousin, Watanyar, is a traffic police officer in Kabul. he graduated from the school while my close relative, Ahmed Wali, is serving in the army. He also studied here. 

*We, the Afghan students, feel quite comfortable singing Pakistan's national anthem. our teachers are very talented. We share common culture, language and dress*.

In Afghan schools the standard of education is very low. Pushto is the medium of instruction and  about 14 subjects  are taught while in our school we study only  7 subjects. The border authorities on both sides have relaxed visa and other instructions and rules for us.''

Palwasha Bibi, a  sixth grader, says she has never felt threatened by militants while coming from her home in the Daka area.

She can play in the open grounds of the school and learn lessons in English and Urdu. Her father who runs a shop in Jalalabad, drops and picks her up daily from the Torkham gate:

''I enjoy my days in  Oxford Public High School,'' she says. ''I have learned English and Urdu poems. The Taliban cannot threaten us because we get an education, which is a great strength, and once we grow up we shall establish an everlasting peace in the region.'' 

Said estimates that between  7,000 and  10,000  Afghan students have graduated from his institute over the last two decades. He says he has not received any direct threat from miltants; nevertheless, he has raised the boundary wall around the school.

He has also built additional classrooms to accommodate the ever increasing number of students. ''My cousin, Abdur Raziq, founded another institute in 2008, the  Pak-Afghan School, next to my school, which attracted more boys and girls''  he says.

Adnan Khan, a 10-grader resident of Torkham, says his Afghan colleagues are brilliant in their studies. His school, he pledges, will become the border school to forge unity and bring peace. 

''We hope our school plays a pivotal  role in Pak-Afghan relations,'' he maintains. ''In a way we are one soul in two bodies.''

Ali Imran, a teacher, explains that when the Torkham gate is closed even the staff has difficulty in reaching the school on time. The occasional closure creates many issues for scores on many sides of the border:
''We have written letter to the Pakistani authorities to design a suitable badge   that can be put up on the Afghan students uniforms, which would enable them to be identified  from a distance,'' he says.

''We fear that militants might plant someone  wearing one of our uniforms to cross over. We want to get the  badges as a precautionary measure.''

When the schools are closing for the day, students chant at top of their voices: *Pak-Afghan Dosti Zindabad*  - *Long Live Pak-Afghan Friendship*.

The principal of the Oxford Public High School maintains that Pak-Afghan friendship sloganeering is the invention of the students themselves. ''We believe that our Afghan students are a precious assets, and appeal to the- 

Government of Pakistan and donor agencies to extend financial assistance to us in order to provide more facilities,'' he prays and urges.

*We want the dream of permanent peace in the region to come true*.

In this context and support,  I hope I will  personally call the principal up to pledge honour and support. And as I sum, I  thank, Sher Alam Shinwari, for this great research and work.

!WOW!  -joins them in this prayer and dream. And has the honour to dedicate this research to the Students, Professors and Teachers of all the schools  in Afghanistan. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and !E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' !WOW! Titanium '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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