"Afghanistan Yama-no Gakko Shien-no-kai" (hereafter, Yamano Gakko) is a non-profit organization established with the objective of supporting education of the children of Parandeh in the Panjshir Valley area of Afghanistan. The photographer Hiromi Nagakura met these children when he was covering the area as a photojournalist. For further information please see below.

February 2004

"Upon establishment of Afghanistan Yama-no Gakko Shien-no-kai (Yamano Gakko) "
Chair:Hiromi Nagakura

  It was in June, 2002 when I visited an elementary school in Parandeh. I was struck by the fact that the school had been built by the local people, and by the fact that it was co-ed. Sitting on the ground or on rocks in a classroom with no glass windows or even a door, the children were studying diligently. I was deeply touched by their earnestness and commitment to their educational pursuits.

  In September the following year, I revisited the school with the photographs I had taken of the children during my previous visit. This time it was autumn and I found that the conditions of the school had been greatly affected by the seasonal changes. Chaff, from grain threshing, would blow into the classroom through the glassless, frameless window. After class the cattle would barge in and defecate throughout the classroom. On cold days, an icy wind would blow in through the makeshift windows and the entryway. Shivering with cold, these children were still in class attempting to learn.
  Prior to my September trip to Parandeh a couple people back in Japan had donated some money for me to spend on these children. Upon seeing the conditions they were learning in, I decided to use these funds to help make their learning environment more suitable for learning. I had window frames and glass windows installed along with an actual door for their makeshift entrance way. I was even able to purchase desks and chairs to accommodate the children of Parandeh.

  The late Commander Massoud, the legendary leader of the Afghan resistance, also loved this beautiful region. I still remember our stay in Parandeh when I accompanied him on his trip to the area to form a united front. Unfortunately the fiercest battles against the Russians were fought in this area, and they took a high toll on the people here. As it is such a remote area, government support for restoration and education are hard to come by though it has been 20 years since the war's end. Yet the children fix their eyes on the chalkboard and study diligently.

  Some walk two hours through the mountains to attend class. For children who spend most of their time helping their families with farming, and tending sheep, school is an important place to encourage social and emotional competence through interactions with friends, cultivate their intellectual curiosities, stimulate their lives, and to encourage them to follow their dreams.

  The teachers here have not been paid in three months and may have to boycott classes unless the situation improves. Teaching materials for the children are scarce. In one family, three brothers share only one textbook. Notebooks and pencils are also in short. There are no maps or lab equipment. All they have are the vinyl school bags provided by UNICEF.

  Yamano Gakko was first conceived as I contemplated how I could help so that these children could continue their educational pursuits. In addition to giving aid to the elementary school, we are considering assisting the junior high that is scheduled to be built this spring. As there were no junior high schools in the area, female students had to give up attending school after 6th grade. For male students it takes 2 hours on foot to the junior high in the central section of Panjshir. The local people say that if there is a junior high in Parandeh, the girls too can attend.

  We want to leave the actual operation of the schools to the teachers and the local people while supporting them financially. Thus we can contribute to giving hope to the children in the Panjshir valley and to restoration of Afghanistan. Though I plan to visit the area once a year, Ms. Hiromi Yasui (Kyodo Communications reporter in Kabul) has graciously agreed to help us when I am not able to do so myself.