7:00am Sunday 26th February 2012
By Lewis Cowen
An Afghan woman who struggled to get an education under the repressive Taliban regime has received a scholarship to Dauntsey’s School in West Lavington.
Farahnaz Afaq, 18, originally from Kabul but taking A-levels at Dauntsey’s, endured many setbacks and disappointments before coming to England in September.
She did not have the greatest start in her education with her family on the run from the Taliban.
As she told Devizes MP Claire Perry at her constituency office in Devizes, where women are concerned, the Taliban believe the best education is no education.
She said: “My parents took us to Iran but the government wouldn’t allow exiled children to go to school there.
“So we went to Pakistan and that was where I first went to school.”
When Farahnaz was nine, her family returned to Afghanistan, thanks to the Coalition force’s efforts to oust the Taliban from power.
She saw some British soldiers in the street in Kabul and, to test out her English, she approached them.
She said: “I said, hello, my name is Farahnaz. What is your name? They were so shocked. They couldn’t believe a nine-year-old girl was speaking to them in English.”
Farahnaz’s father, a pharmacist, wanted his children to receive the best education, but for Farahnaz, her first Afghan school was a disappointment. She said: “There was no building, no desks, nothing. We sat on the ground inside a tent.”
The next school had a building, though it was a wreck, and she finally got an education at a third school and became involved with the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) charity.
Through SOLA, Farahnaz won a scholarship to a school in America but the US government would not give her a visa as she had already graduated from school in Afghanistan. Via Facebook, a member of SOLA brought her case to the attention of Demelza Hills, who teaches French and Spanish at Dauntsey’s.
Mrs Hills and her husband Richard agreed to be Farah-naz’s guardians and she won a scholarship to Dauntsey’s.
But as there is no British embassy in Afghanistan, she had to travel to New Delhi in India to get a visa.
Farahnaz was amazed by all she saw when she arrived in England.
Mrs Hills said: “We got on a bus and she couldn’t believe her eyes. The driver of the bus was a woman.”
Farahnaz aims to go on to university and then return to Afghanistan to teach.
Mrs Perry, who plans to make a Parliamentary visit to Afghanistan in November, said: “The sacrifices made by our Armed Forces have delivered so much to the people of Afghanistan. It is a beautiful country and we have to make sure it is not taken over by Stone Age people who don’t like women.”
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