Donation keeps doors open at Tajik school for Afghan children

By Caravanserai

The Somoniyon School in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, shown in an undated photo, serves more than 450 pupils from kindergarten to 11th grade. [US Embassy in Tajikistan]

The Somoniyon School in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, shown in an undated photo, serves more than 450 pupils from kindergarten to 11th grade. [US Embassy in Tajikistan]

DUSHANBE -- The US NGO Spirit of America (SOA), in partnership with the US Embassy in Dushanbe, earlier this month announced a donation to keep the Afghan Somoniyon School in Dushanbe open for another year, the embassy said in a statement.

The school serves Afghan refugee children, playing a crucial role in light of the previous Afghan government's downfall in August.

To meet the refugee children's critical needs, SOA is contributing more than $80,000 (7.8 million AFN).

The Dushanbe school educates more than 450 pupils from kindergarten to 11th grade. It is co-educational.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the new government prohibits girls from attending school after sixth grade.

Tajikistan's only Afghan school

Somoniyon is the only school in Tajikistan using a curriculum from Afghanistan and teaching in Dari.

The SOA grant helps the school "meet the cost of rent, student transportation, furnishings, minor repairs, and internet", said the embassy.

SOA is funding the school "to ensure that more than 450 displaced Afghan children have access to a quality education and can grow up with the same dreams and aspirations as other boys or girls around the world", SOA CEO Jim Hake said.

He commended the Tajik people for their "tremendous goodwill and hospitality toward Afghans seeking refuge in their country".

"This valuable assistance is truly life changing for our students," Somoniyon School principal Nojia Zahir said.

"The people of the United States and Tajikistan stand firmly together in solidarity with Afghan refugees," US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim said.

Aiding Afghan refugees in Tajikistan

The donation comes after SOA and the US embassy collaborated to support three community centres in Vakhdat.

The centres provide English-language, technology and vocational programmes serving more than 2,500 Tajiks and Afghans.

SOA financed renovation and high-speed internet for the Karvan Education Centre, the Innovation Technology and Communications Centre and the Vakhdat youth centre. The upgrades enable Tajik and Afghan youths in Vakhdat to seek out educational resources and opportunities.

The United States "is the largest single humanitarian donor in Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees in the region", the embassy said.

During the past year, it has given almost $474 million (46.2 billion AFN) in Afghan-related humanitarian aid.

SOA is a privately funded US NGO that "engages citizens in strengthening relationships with allies, friends, and partners to preserve the promise of a free and better life", said the embassy.

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We thank America for helping the Afghan people at home and abroad. As a citizen of Afghanistan, I call on the government and people of America to provide more help to the suffering and disadvantaged people of Afghanistan especially in the field of higher education, because no amount of materialistic assistance is as valuable as educational assistance. Afghans need education and scholarships more than anything else. I also call on the current rulers of Afghanistan, to appreciate the educated and highly educated groups of Afghans and not to hurt them further, and to allow girls and women to continue their education just like they allowed boys.