A vivid and heartbreaking account of an Uxbridge High School student's life in Afghanistan made required reading when it appeared in the school's magazine. SHAH POPAL was asked to write about how education is administered in the war-torn country.The teenager reproduces his article in this week's Uxbridge Gazette:
OF ALL the poor and broken nations of the world, my country is certainly one of them.
Afghanistan was once a well-known, rich empire, which ruled over half the world, all of Asia and some of the Arabian states.
After a long period of foreign invasions and civil wars it is now war-torn.
I went to school for six years in Afghanistan. Education is important in everyone's life, but some people don't have the chance or money to go to school.
To go to school in Afghanistan, children have to pay a certain amount of money and if they don't do well in their first years then their parents will often decide to drop them from school and instead make them earn something for the family.
This is a description of a day in my life in Afghanistan:
It is early in the morning. I have to wake up and go to wash my face. It is so cold and I have to pump for the water to come; it is freezing cold. There is no central heating.
Once I have finished washing my face I dress and quickly find if there is anything left over from the night before to eat. Then I start walking to school.
Schools are always far away for lots of people because there are only a few schools. I walk carefully out of the house so I don't come face to face with any kind of danger.
While I'm walking to school I see the Army on patrol. It is a bad situation because it is cold and I'm scared of the foreign troops.
They are on patrol and going around and checking for any trouble. You can't move while the army vehicles are moving, you have to stand still until they are clear.
You see everywhere there are signs of danger. You have to be careful where you walk because Russians planted a lot of bombs; it is still not cleared and bombs are everywhere.
I'm tired and it is 8am when I arrive at school.
We have to line up in the cold to go to our tents. In most schools they don't have enough classrooms because there are too many students; sometimes there are more than 70 students in one class.
All the equipment is bought by the students, the thing the school provides, that you pay for, is teachers.
Inside school there are no tables and chairs, the students have to study in difficult and freezing conditions. You have to sit on the cold and dirty floors. There are no computers.
They don't have phone calls home or letters home but instead the student is caned on their foot in front of the whole school.
I think this is why the students don't cause trouble or fight in schools.
There are five periods and students don't move classes but the teachers do. There is only one break at 10am for 15 minutes and school finishes at noon.
Once school is finished I have to walk back home. It is afternoon and the sun is up in the sky. The sun in Afghanistan is not hot and you don't sweat, but it burns your skin.
Now I'm hungry and trying my best to get home as quickly as I can. My feet are really hot, I feel like I'm walking on fire.
I arrive home and all my family have gathered together for lunch. Dad likes me more than all my other brothers and gets me to eat more.
It is 2pm and I have to get all the animals, including sheep, cows and goats out of the house to take them to the desert to eat something and then to the lake to drink some water.
Not only do I have to feed them, but my older brother and I have to bring some grass back with us, so they can eat during the night
When we return, we have to get out our books and re vise everything we studied today, for two hours. It starts to get dark and because there is no electricity here in my village, we won't be able to do anything useful.
So, when I finish my studies at 6pm, all the family sits around the lamp and Dad asks everyone how their day went.
An hour later we have dinner and before 8pm we go to bed because we have to get up early for school.
Getting through the day is not the difficult thing because when you try to sleep at night this is when the hardest and most frightening things happen.
As I mentioned, Afghanistan is war-torn. At night rockets are fired and bombs explode. Sometimes it is so serious that you can't sleep until early morning when they stop the fighting; the worst thing is that civilians are the ones getting caught in the middle.
After all this the sun rises and I have to get up and face all the harsh things in life again.
As you can see, life is very different in Afghanistan.