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Teen's Donation Forms Cornerstone For Girls' Education In Afghan Village

  • Farangis Najibullah

Fourteen-year-old Rima Nuri donated her share of her family's farmland so that a girls' school in her village of Nemla could expand.

Fourteen-year-old Rima Nuri donated her share of her family's farmland so that a girls' school in her village of Nemla could expand.

Education officials in the eastern Afghan village of Nemla had been struggling to find a way to build on the success of the only girls' school in the village. Overflowing classrooms had led them to consider expansion, but with no land available in the mountainous area of Nangarhar Province, they had no place to turn.

That is, until a teenage girl stepped in to save the day.

In a gesture of generosity that surprised even her parents, 14-year-old Rima Nuri donated her share of adjacent farmland her family had inherited, paving the way for the school's expansion, while laying a cornerstone for future generations.

Farmland is scarce and extremely valuable in Nemla, nestled in the mountains of the Khogyani district of Nangarhar Province.

While the sale of the land -- amounting to nearly a hectare -- could have made her life more comfortable, Rima felt that she "could build a better future" for herself and others through education.

"I could sell this land," Rima says. "But when I saw my sisters' problems [with a lack of classrooms], I decided to give the land allotment to education system to build a new school."

'Valuable Gift'

The school Rima and her two sisters attend is overflowing with fellow students and is hemmed in by private land.

The new addition to the girls' school in Nemla under construction
Muhammad Iqbal Aziz, the head of Khogyani district 's education department, says the authorities had considered expanding the school but had found it impossible due to the lack of land.

Aziz says Rima's "valuable gift" was a welcome solution that has allowed authorities to break ground on a new, attached building with eight classrooms and two administration offices.

Rima hopes the modern school building, which is being solidly constructed and features wooden floors, will be in beautiful contrast to the village's dilapidated mud and brick homes.

Rima's father, Nurullah, who works for a local nongovernmental organization, says he supports his daughter's decision and is proud of her.

"I am very happy that my daughter sacrificed her property for the development of the education system," Nurullah says.

Stability Remains Fragile

Nurullah, like many Nemla residents, recognizes the importance of providing his family -- including three daughters -- with a proper education.

Just a few years ago, girls' education was not possible in the province -- the strict rules of the Taliban made sure of that by denying girls and women such rights.

But today, many of the 200 families in Nemla are supportive of the school and send their daughters and granddaughters there. And the province as a whole, located on the restive border with Pakistan, is seeing an increasing number of women working at schools, hospitals, and nongovernmental organizations.

But residents know that peace and stability in their region remains fragile. Conservative families who oppose or have strong reservations to women's education and their participation in public life still have an strong voice.

As for Rima, she is still deciding what she wants to be when she grows up. She is considering being a doctor, a teacher, or a housewife like her mother.

She clearly understands, however, that whatever she decides, she will get there by "studying hard" at school.

RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Nangarhar, Dawud Wafa, contributed to this report

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