World Bulletin / News Desk
Aziz Royesh has had only one ambition in life: he has wanted to be nothing more but to be a teacher.
He achieved this goal at age 46 however not only that he did this in Afghanistan - one of the ost difficult and dangerous environments in the world. Not only that, Royesh has achieved what thousands of teachers who have every facility under their fingers tips - he's also one of 10 teachers short-listed for the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize — an award billed as the Nobel prize for educators. The winner will be announced Sunday. Royesh says, if he's chosen, he'll donate the $1 million prize money to his school.
Originally reported in npr.org, Aziz Royesh is the driving force behind the creation of Marefat School, a cluster of stark buildings amid the mud-bound alleys on the western edge of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The students are almost all impoverished Hazaras, a Shia Muslim minority that's suffered heavily during Afghanistan's many years of conflict.
You only have to step inside Marefat School to realize how greatly it differs from others in Afghanistan. Facilities include music and art departments, and a student radio station. Pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln adorn the walls.
Marefat School was established in the Afghan capital in 2002, just after the U.S. and its allies invaded and ousted the Taliban from power. Back then, much of the city was damaged — and so, recalls Royesh, were many of its citizens.
"They were psychologically destroyed, pessimistic, you know, full of hatred, [and] cultural violence."
Around that time a British baroness, Frances D'Souza, met Royesh while she was on a visit to Afghanistan. She has since become Speaker of the House of Lords in the U.K. parliament.
She remembers him as "a bundle of energy," a man small in stature but with "a huge brain and a huge heart."
"He seized on me," she says, "because he wanted to discuss women's liberation, democracy, civil society, civil education. And we talked for hours and hours and hours."
The school started out in a half-ruined building with only 37 students. Using funds that D'Souza helped raise, Royesh refurbished another building. Then, she says, he made "a smart move".
He put in heating. Local families, struggling to buy fuel for their stoves at home, flocked in to escape the winter cold.
This gave Royesh an opportunity to set about persuading the adults — particularly fathers — to let their daughters enroll in the school.
Marefat School now has more than 3,500 students, of whom nearly half are female.
What makes this story even more impressive is that he himself was pulled out of school when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan - his father took them to Pakistan but even there he never stopped studying At 16, he returned to Afghanistan and set up a makeshift classroom in his home to teach basic literacy to his male friends and his brothers. He was eventually recruited by the authorities to help establish other schools in the area.
Setting up the school with a liberal arts programme has not been easy he says, but his effort has never been about the denial of conservative Islamic views "The clerics are here and they have their place but I have the right to interpret the Quran the way I see it".
It quickly became clear that Royesh is not just an average teach— found in abundance in south and central Asia — who expect their students to write down what they say, without questioning it.
"All these students around me, they can easily come, and they can challenge me," he told NPR. "They can reject me. They can oppose me. They can laugh with me. Sometimes they can even laugh at me. They can!
"Creating Marefat School has brought its own kind of rewards.
"This is not my school," says Royesh, "This is the school of the community. But I am helping my dreams come true in this school. So I am rich. I am very rich."
Last Mod: 19 Mart 2015, 13:42