Masiha Hakeem is the oldest girl in her class at school. “I do not mind,” she says. “I feel comfortable around the students who are younger than me.” She is in the 10th grade at the Yaldooz Girls’ school. Seven years ago, she did not know how to read.
Masiha did not start her education until the age of 14, when she first started attending one of Barakat’s Literacy Programs. She says she first learnt of Barakat in 2004. “The elders of our village and our families were so excited about the program,” she says. “Without any hesitation, my family allowed me to go the literacy course.” She was starting her journey on the road to literacy.
She attended the Barakat Afghanistan Literacy Program called Sowat Amasui,which literally means, “to teach one to become literate”. Typically, students in the literacy courses range in age from 7 to 55 and come from many different backgrounds. The literacy courses provide a safe learning space for women who, in some cases, are prevented from attending school for cultural or religious reasons. Masiha’s family was supportive, and through the program, she learnt how to read, write, and do math. After a year, Masiha graduated from the course and moved to the 4thgrade at the Yaldooz Girls’ School.
Now, as she continues her studies at the Yaldooz Girls’ school, she names Barakat as one of the reasons she was able to proceed in her education. “If Barakat did not exist, I would not be able to read. I would not have been able to continue my education.” She also talks about the effect Barakat has had on her community. “I am deeply grateful, because Barakat Afghanistan opened the doors not only for me, but for my sisters and other women in my community.”
Masiha is planning for the future. “I really hope to be a teacher in the future, so that I will be able to help other girls achieve their education.” Seven years after she began to learn how to read and write, she has a new perspective on education. “Education is not just about reading and writing. It directs us to a prosperous future. It enables us to be aware of our rights in society.”
Masiha is no longer part of a Barakat program. She has moved on to another school. But the lessons that she learned that first year continue to influence her life. And hopefully, someday, she can pass those lessons on to other girls.