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Elizabeth Suneby: A Window into a Girls’ School in Afghanistan

Intermediate & Middle School Activity

Meet Elizabeth Suneby, author of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2014 Honor Title, ‘Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education.’

Read a summary of ‘Razia’s Ray of Hope.’

In Razia’s village in Afghanistan a school is being built for girls. Razia dreams of attending. Her brothers attend school in a neighboring village. Her oldest brothers work in the quarry and Razia helps at home and in the orchards. Razia grandfather agrees to speak for her at the family “jerga” but her uncles and brothers say no. Unwilling to give up, she asks the school teacher to intercede. Finally, when her eldest brother is assured Razia will be safe, and her mother assured that she will continue to help the family before and after school, and when all see how committed she is to learn – through her own advocacy and spirit, the answer becomes Yes! A gentle, beautifully illustrated book.

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Elizabeth says on her website, “… I heard Razia Jan recount story after story of the challenges girls who want an education face. I knew right then that I needed to share these stories with grown-ups and kids living in developed countries who, understandably, take education for granted.”

In this part of ‘Razia’s Ray of Hope,’ the girl in the story is watching a new school be built. Zoom in for a close look and read.

Here she is when she meets Razia (watching her from the classroom door.)

(images from The Christian Science Monitor: Children’s Book Gallery)

Meet the Razia, founder of the Zabuli Education Center. Watch her interview in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Now for a tour of the school by some of the students. Listen and watch as they practice their English and show you around!

Connect with a student of the Zabuli Education Center who is staying home just like you! This video was posted on 5/12/20. (The black material below Muzhda chin is her face mask.)

Now Let’s Get to Next Steps!

Guiding questions for your reading, writing, thinking and acting:

Elizabeth says she wanted to share the stories of the girls’ school in Afghanistan “with grown-ups and kids living in developed countries who, understandably, take education for granted.” Do you think you and those around you take education for granted? Why? Does education give you hope? In what way? You may not be taking education for granted in the same way as you did a few months ago! How has your view of your education changed since the schools shutdown and you’ve been learning from home? Has your view of education changed since learning about and seeing the Zabuli Education Center? How? Think through these questions and write a paragraph or two answering them. Read over what you’ve written. What have you learned about yourself and what education means to you through this thinking and writing? You are welcome to share your writing and/or thoughts in our comment section (comments will be approved & posted within 24 yours) or on social media #socialjusticelearnanddo

Muzhda received books to take home during the coronavirus school shut down. Like you, she is working on her studies at home. Consider what you’ve learned about Muzdha, the other girls, and their school. How are you like Muzdha or one of the girls giving the tour and how are you different? How are your circumstances similar and different? Make a list for each category. Push your thinking to extend the list. Then think of students in your school who seem different than you in some way, be it race, culture, gender identity, religion, economic, statue, abilities, or something else. Be specific. Choose one or two of these students to do the same exercise with. Make a full list of similarities and differences between them and you. What did you learn from this activity? How might it change you and the things that you do and say in the future? You are welcome to share your experience and thoughts about this activity in our comment section below (comments will be approved & posted within 24 yours) or on social media #socialjusticelearnanddo

We look forward to hearing from you!

Jane Addams Peace Association