Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A World That Appreciates Education

Over last two weeks, our bright students talked about education in both countries of United States and Afghanistan. I think one of the only reasons that make United States very different from Afghanistan is the educational system. Therefore, in our Skype project we tried to highlight this concept by selecting it as the topic of the week.

Reema Furkan, a junior in St. Timothy’s School, Skyped with Maryam Danish from Afghanistan, a student in American University of Afghanistan. They learned a lot about their educational system. However, the difference that they were surprised the most about was the fact that in Afghanistan girls and boys study in separate classroom but in America boys and girls learn in the same classroom. Reema said, “It is surprising to see how people set rules and laws to make sure that the students stay focused on their academics.” In addition, sometimes in Afghanistan teachers use physical punishment to manage the class, while in America physical punishment is absolutely forbidden. Reema said that she was grateful to learn the ways the two countries were different and similar in handling their educational system.

As an Afghan girl who has been studying in a very privileged boarding school in United States for past two years, I think one of the biggest differences between education in Afghanistan and America is how much it is appreciated. I feel that in Afghanistan students appreciate educational opportunities more because it is a privilege to be able to go to school. However, education is mandatory in America and students take it for granted which makes it seem that it is very natural to be able to go to school. In some villages in Afghanistan, for example, girls walk two hours to go to a school that does not even provide adequate books, uniforms, or seats in the classroom. I never forget when I used to cross through the crowded areas of Kabul; there were some boys and girls selling books, shopping bags, or balloons to support their families. Once, I bought a balloon and asked an eight years old boy if he went to school, and he said he did, but had to keep working in order to support his family and afford going to school.

In America, however, education is viewed very differently. Since education is unquestionably provided, people tend to focus on staying competitive. Having good grades and being a good student is not enough. Having a leadership position or being good athlete is as important as the academic background. Some parents pay thousands of dollars to send their children to the best kinder gardens, so they can get to the best middle schools, and then the best high schools and finally end up going to the best colleges. Even after college, students have to stay competitive for the best jobs available. Competition makes people more productive, practical and creative. People in America view education is a tool for improvement and a key to success whereas in Afghanistan students view education as a tool to survive and build a happy life.

The great thing about both countries is that education is valued greatly. Appreciation and healthy competition is enough for our generation to make the world a better place.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A World Without Boundaries

Afghan/American culture exchange project started its first individual Skype meetings last week. 7 Afghan girls and 7 American girls have paired up for an exciting and productive cultural interaction. This project’s goal is to increase the awareness about different cultures around the world. Although we all live in one planet, it unbelievable how different our life styles are and within this differences, it is always joyful to find the similarities.

 Maryam Danish, one of the Afghan girls said she believes that the geographical borders cannot put a boundary on her knowledge about the world. She is willing to make friends from all over the world regardless of their different backgrounds.  She also emphasized on how vital it is to stay connected with different people around the world because different cultures could learn a great deal from each other. Moreover, she is very curious to explore about the fundamental factors that had shaped American culture. She said: “I want to find how they (Americans) changed their country into a better one. I am especially interested in cultural, educational and social factors… I want to know how the community behaves with women and deal with female issues.”

Margie Hemp, a student in St. Timothy’s from United States is also a student that has volunteered for the cultural exchange project. When I asked her for the reason she joined this project, she replied: “I hope to gain a friend and lots of knowledge about other cultures. I really want to make connections and see how things differ from America to the other country. I want to go “WOW”. ” Margie is also looking forward to learning about how Afghan culture look at different factors such as, marriages, homosexuality,  women’s situation, animals' condition, daily life, manners, superstitions, transportation and other factors that play crucial role in Afghan culture.

These students regardless of the busy schedule and bad internet connections have started this project strongly. They are all super-excited to explore about each other cultures and show the different side of story that people usually ignore. Keep of the good work girls, I am proud of you!

Hello! My name is Fatima . I am from Afghanistan and I go to a boarding school in Maryland , United States. Living in both countries have made me realized how important it is to be know about different cultures. Therefore, I have started a culture exchange project in my school that connects Afghan girls with students in my American school via Skype. Everybody has a partner to Skype with from another country. Every week, we will have different topics to talk about. We will post our reflections on this page, and let you know about the valuable and important aspects we found about each other's culture.