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) "
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
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.
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