Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

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Students attend a class at the Nooranya School in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan on Dec. 4, 2019. (AN Photo)
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A view of the Nooranya School in southeastern Paktika province on Dec. 4, 2019. (AN Photo)
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Rozai (in second row) in class with other students at her school, on Dec. 4, 2019. (AN Photo)
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Mia Khan and his daughter Rozai pose for an undated photo inside the Nooranya School in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan. Khan travels 12 km daily on his motorcycle to take his daughter to school every day. (Photo courtesy: social media)
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Updated 10 December 2019

Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

  • Devoted dad overcomes strict traditions on female roles in hope of seeing girl become town’s first female doctor

PAKISTAN: Devoted Afghan dad Mia Khan has been hailed for going the extra mile to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Every day, the daily wage laborer, from Sharan city in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, travels 12 km on his motorcycle to take Rozai to school.

And when classes end, he is there for the long and hazardous journey home through tough borderland terrain.

“You know, we don’t have any female doctors in our town. It is my ultimate wish to see my daughter as its first female doctor. I want her to serve humanity,” Khan told Arab News.

Paktika shares a 300 km border with Pakistan’s newly merged tribal districts of North and South Waziristan and parts of Balochistan province, where powerful patriarchal norms still dictate most women’s lives.

But Rozai and her father are determined to buck the trend through her tuition at Nooranya School, a community educational institution built by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

Rozai told Arab News: “We have to travel a long distance and I would like for a school to be established closer to our home. We are often tired (from our journey) when we arrive at school and sometimes, we are late.”

Saif-ur-Rehman Shahab, a representative of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told Arab News that Khan, who has for years taken his children to school on a motorcycle, deserved all the plaudits he could get. Khan has two sons and seven daughters.

“Khan gets his children, specifically his daughter Rozai, educated in a very challenging situation. We have deteriorating security and poor awareness about girls’ education here. Khan is facing acute financial challenges working as a daily wage laborer. I deeply appreciate him for facing all these challenges boldly to educate his daughter,” Shahab said.

Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Khan’s passion was an inspiration to others. “Amid brewing insecurity coupled with cultural limitations, this is a really positive change when people like Khan come out to educate their children, primarily daughters.”

Nooranya School has 220 female students and is one of hundreds of community-based classes and schools, predominantly attended by girls, set up by the committee in various parts of Paktika province.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 33 min 6 sec ago

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”