Five and a half days a week, Abdul Ghafoor teaches second and sixth grade students in Barakat’s Mullah KarimNazar School in the Kamangar village of Afghanistan’s Andkhoy district.
In a country dominated by strict patriarchal traditions, Abdul Ghafoor stands as an example of a progressive Afghan man; one who not only supports female education and empowerment, but has also dedicated his life to advancing this cause.
“It’s really important for girls to come to school. Instead of weaving rugs at home, it is better to learn something in school and become literate. Naturally, it is right that girls should help with household work too, but seeking knowledge is their own right, and a girl should be allowed to go to school and learn for her future,” said Ghafoor.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Abdul, 32, is a highly educated man himself.
Having completed primary school in Andkhoy, Abdul continued to pursue his education at a local high school. After graduating, he enrolled at Andkhoy’s teacher training center, where he not only became certified but also met his wife, who is now a teacher as well. Though Abdul specialized in Biology in school, he also became certified to teach history, geography, Dari, English and chemistry.
Despite the perception that fathers in Afghanistan may not want their daughters to be educated, Abdul argues that the reason parents elect to have their daughters stay home is are often economic rather than social or religious.
“All the parents want their children to be educated. But those whose economic conditions are not good have to send their children to the bazaar instead, to make money to feed themselves and their families. Or they make them weave rugs and do other work,” he explained.
Rather, says Abdul, the best way to get more Afghan parents to send their daughters to school is to make them aware of the benefits of education, especially the financial ones, such as a greater possibility of getting better jobs.
“It is important that the families who don’t know about the benefits of knowledge be made aware,” said Abdul. “They need to understand that the reason they live with so much difficulty is partly because they are not literate. If they do not let their children [go to school] either, they will continue to live in the same way. Let them go to school to shape their future with new ideas and new contributions.”
Abdul also emphasized that there is no difference in intelligence levels between male and female students.
“There is no difference between them; both of them are human beings and both of them have same rights…I teach both boys and girls. They learn the same way,” said Abdul. He added that, in his experience, some of the girls in his classes are smarter than the boys.
But then again, maybe he’s just a bit biased.
Afterall, Abdul and his wife have two daughters, Bareera and Basheera, who just so happen to be attending Mullah KarimNazar School as well.