Meet the man known as “Ustadh” or teacher, the headmaster of the primary school for Afghan refugee girls I visited in KPK.
Originally from Kabul, he has spent the last 20 years in Pakistan as a teacher.
Not only does he lead the school. He is also an elder of the Ahmedzai, a tribe of Pashtuns. In a community gathering of elders known as “shura”, his word has a lot of sway. Immunisation and polio vaccination for instance is point of distrust for some Pashtun communities for numerous reasons. Some local scholars have issued fatwas claiming it isn’t permissible for Muslims. The belief that polio vaccinations are a guise to sterilise children is a conspiracy theory which persists there just as it does here in the UK. Ustadh uses his influence to negotiate with other community elders and encourage them to protect their children.
Whilst there was much to be hopeful about, the future of some of the refugee children is not. I asked the headmaster what hope he sees for the future. He said, “There is nothing beyond primary school for these children. They don’t have citizenship in Pakistan, and there aren’t systems in place to educate them at a higher level. They can’t dream about being a doctor or an engineer.”