Today it is almost impossible to photograph Afghan schools. Following frequent attacks by the Taliban and other orthodox elements on schools’ students and teachers who are often girls and women, the Ministry of Education no longer gives permission for visits. The few photos I managed to make inside educational institutions in 2009, were realized by permission of teachers and directors in their personal capacity.
Uruzgan is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped provinces of Afghanistan. Illiteracy rates are high, the level of education very low and economic development is at a low rate. In Tarin Kowt an Afghan NGO supports street children, school dropouts, girls and women in getting education as well as vocational training. Next to literacy and mathematics classes, the boys are trained in electrical engineering, plumbing, tailoring and machine embroidery.
The girls and women are additionally trained in machine embroidery, an activity they can easily be done at home. Since Uruzgan society is still very traditional and orthodox, for many girls and women it is impossible to visit a regular school. Therefore they are educated in a home school – a room at a female teacher’s house. However, even there, among women and with a female photographer, these students hide their faces from the camera to avoid recognition and trouble with male relatives. For them it is already exceptional to get permission to attend class and receive education. They don’t want to challenge this privilege.
Boys, girls and women are very much aware of the importance of education and the increase of opportunities it will offer them, especially in low developed Uruzgan. Therefore they are very dedicated to their school.
(Gitta van Buuren, School in Uruzgan, PRIVATE 56, pages 32-36)