A second-grade math class in Kabul, Afghanistan, met in the school breezeway with a blackboard on wheels. The young scholar was shy about speaking in front of her class. A proud teacher watched. A classmate reached out her hand to offer support.
This scene, so natural, so universal, was nonexistent in Afghanistan for many years when the Taliban were in power. Laws prohibited women and girls from attending school or even leaving their homes.
But as I approached the Spin Addi Primary School in Kabul recently, the roar of children playing cascaded over the walls around the dirt schoolyard. Girls ran and jumped, playing volleyball or basketball in their black outfits and white scarves. The school, overcrowded with 4,500 students (3,000 of them girls), offers some classes just for boys. But it was girls who seemed to be everywhere, spilling out into hallways and into the tents erected to provide more space in which to soak up knowledge. I heard cries of impatience from Afghans eager for the money promised by the United States to rebuild their country. Where are the roads? Electricity? Water? Homes? Jobs? At least I can point to the schools, schools that can't contain students' enthusiasm. Schools where scenes like this are becoming natural and right.