When I was eight years old I stepped onto the grounds of ISK — The International School of Kabul. I was excited and a bit nervous too. Back then I was a much different girl. I did not know how to speak English or how to communicate with the teachers. I went to the playground and could see my differences with the other students right away. Each of them had friends and they were running around the playground together, but I did not have any friends at all.
After a few minutes a teacher came. She spoke English and the students called her Miss Nealends. She spoke words I didn’t understand and the students got into several lines. I did not know which line to stand in so I just stood in front of a student, not knowing that I was in the second-grade line. The students spoke English to me as well and they probably told me to get away but I didn’t understand so I didn’t move. Finally, a teacher the students called Miss Foster came over. She knew that I could not speak English so she just took me to another line.
We went inside the classroom and everyone sat on a chair. I just sat on the first chair I found, not knowing that it was the wrong chair. The students laughed then Miss Nealends came and pointed to a chair beside the window with a desk with my name tag. The tag said: Hakima. I knew how to write my name in English thanks to my father.
The first day was not so good and neither was the rest of first grade. The first day was probably the best day because the rest of first grade was awful. Since I didn’t know how to speak English the other students would make faces at me, draw bad pictures of me, punch me, curse me in Dari and translate directions incorrectly just to get me in trouble. Computer class and Library were the worst. I even tried skipping those days but I wasn’t sure which days we had those classes so that didn’t work. In first grade there was a girl called Negar. She hated me and called me weird and funny names. Toward the end of first grade I had learned some English and things got better. I did not think I would pass first grade but I was surprised that we did not have any tests at the end of the school year. After summer break, I came back to school and was even more surprised to see I had become a second grader!
The rest of my school years went well. I changed. Once I was a girl who only cared about fashion and fancy clothes but I started to care about school and learning new things. Second grade was better. I could speak enough English — probably more than enough English — to solve my problems. The girl who hated me, Negar, became my best friend. Sometimes we would even think of all the things we had done and called each other during first grade and laughed about it. We helped each other with our lessons. The girls who tried to boss everyone around could no longer rule over us because we were independent and better students then they were. I realized I had a talent for soccer, reading and writing. Each day at P.E every team would want me to be with them!
I grew to like computer class and library was awesome. I loved reading and the new teacher, Miss Peck was very nice. She was wise and knew what kind of book each student wanted. Third and fourth grades were both wonderful too, but then at the start of fifth grade the school closed because of security concerns.
During my four years of school I had changed a lot. When I walked out of the school, I was hopeful for my future. ISK had given me the gift of English, and had taught me about respect, honesty and behaving well. ISK showed me the world and the different customs in it. ISK taught me to believe in myself. Because I changed and grew so much during four years I came to believe that everyone can change. Changing is not impossible. I changed not by force but by being respected as a student. Each day I came late, the teacher did not beat me or curse me. She would smile and say, “I am glad you came to class today.” I want others to know that no one can be changed by force. Change one’s mind and thoughts in order to change one’s life. When one studies hard and becomes educated, in the future that person will not only have a different life, but a different way of seeing things and thinking about them.
About the author:
Hakima lives in Afghanistan and is 16 years old. She received her English diploma from Star Eductaional Society in 2016 and is currently teaching ROYA students. She likes to write stories, mostly about women. She is planning to study her higher education abroad and become a worthy leader for her people.