Dear Mr. Oliphant,
I am a constituent of Don Valley West, and am concerned about the state of a school in Kandahar, Afghanistan — the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre (ACCC) — which is supported by a charity, the Canadian International Learning Foundation (CanILF). As you may have read in today’s Toronto Star, the ACCC is in serious financial trouble, due to its inability to secure continued funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.
I am a high school teacher in Scarborough, at a school which has a very large Afghan-Canadian population. In addition, two Afghan-Canadian teachers at my school have started an program, the Canadian-Afghan Student Success Initative (CASSI), which seeks to connect Afghan-Canadian students and their parents more directly with the school. This sort of program is necessary in Canada because the transition between the shoddy educational infrastructure in Afghanistan and our excellent system is often a difficult one.
A few years ago, I had a student named Mariyam. She was 16 and in a Grade 10 Science class, and a really sweet girl. We’d talk all the time about life, and school, and the transition from Afghanistan to Canada — she’d grown up in Kandahar and moved to Toronto maybe a year or two earlier. Her written English skills were very shaky, so I asked about how much English she’d learned in school back home. “Oh, I never went to school back home,” she replied — which completely knocked me over.
“Never went to school, ever?”
“No, I just stayed at home with my mom and helped look after the house.”
I hadn’t even considered this to be an option for children, but as I learned more about what life was (and is) like in Kandahar, it is sadly not that surprising to me anymore, especially for girls. Mariyam ended up passing the course, improving her science knowledge and lab skills, and improving her English — but the main lesson I took away from teaching her was that there was a part of the world where children, mainly girls, simply do not have the opportunity to get any sort of education whatsoever.
Education is a basic human right. We all have the right to learn, to better ourselves as people and to acquire the skills to improve our lot in life, free from threats and harassment. The ACCC provides this vital service to the young people of Kandahar, mostly girls, who desire nothing but this basic right. I can’t understand why CIDA would choose not to support this modest yet extremely important initiative, which not only accomplishes the direct goal of helping to educate girls in Kandahar, but also serves to form a good impression of Canada in the minds of the vast majority of the citizens in that hardscrabble city. I humbly request that you use your position as my Member of Parliament to impress upon CIDA the importance of the ACCC, and CanILF’s role in supporting it.
Thank you in advance,
On behalf of the volunteers at CanILF and the staff and students at the ACCC, I would like to thank Mr. Jason Law for taking the time to write his Member of Parliament, and for sharing his letter with us. It’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same kind of educational opportunities as we do in Canada but, as Jason proves with his letter, this kind of oppression also affects our fellow Canadians, such as Mariyam and her family.