Rising from the ashes
From child street worker to a position holder at Star Educational Society
This week’s interview is with Izathullah who was a spandi until August, 2016. A spandi is someone who sells the smoke from the herb Espand to ward off evil spirits (see article about Espand here). In August, Izathullah became one of the first students in the ROYA Mentorship Program in Kabul. Children in the program have financial sponsors to receive English classes, computer training and one-on-one mentors.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little about yourself. I am Izathullah, son of Chaman Ali. I am 15 years old and I study in 8th grade. I am also a student in the Junior Beginner One class at Star Educational Society and I was the 2nd position holder last semester. I was born in Behsood and moved to Kabul seven years ago. Currently I live in Shahrak Ettifaq.
Tell us about your life and your daily routine before you were selected for the ROYA Mentorship Program. I would get up at 4:30am and leave my home at 5 am and I would work on the streets as a Spandi until 5pm. But when we had school, I went to school in the morning and worked on the streets in the afternoon. I also sold ice-cream in the summer. I was not enjoying my life, it was like the darkest days I have ever experienced because there was no hope for my future, there was no happiness in our family. Moreover, I was disappointed for my siblings who were living in a very bad situation and we didn’t have any idea how to give them a better life. That’s why my younger brother, Rahmat, also became a Spandi. My sisters were small and they were at home all day weaving carpets with my mother. When we were at home, we all were unhappy. We were praying always and were asking Allah to do a miracle and help us.
How old were you when you started working on the street? I was 12 years old when I was compelled to begin working on streets. For two years before that, I wove carpets at home with my mother, the time that I should be in school and should be enjoying fun with other boys. But I had to work in smoke and dirt on the streets to find some money to feed my family. When I began working on the streets, I was ashamed, at first, because other boys my age were dressed in good school uniforms and were so happy but I was full of smoke and dirt.
Talk about the day you first learned that somebody would sponsor your English classes. The day that Mr. Asif and Shoaib told me that I can start studying English at Star, I was so happy! I quickly imagined my first day at the center meeting other fellows, sitting in the chair, opening my book and writing English. I was happy because I always hoped to study in a great English center and I was excited to start speaking English with my classmates and teachers. By learning English, I can contact my sponsor, Miss Joy Gaine, who is in the United States. I have never talked with a foreigner up to now and I am so excited to talk to one who knows me and cares about my future. I am thankful to Miss Joy for making an impossible thing possible for me and making my hope into reality.
A short time later, you found out that A More Balanced World was going to pay your weekly wages so that you could stop being a spandi and concentrate on your schoolwork. What was it like to hear that news? I was at work when Mr. Asif and Shoaib came to our home and talked to my family about paying our weekly wages and stopping us from being child laborers. When I reached home, everyone was so happy and were smiling. They told me that I won’t need to work anymore. I was too happy because I knew I can focus on my studies after this and that sad faces will turn to happy faces. We will all be happy and we can be together more often. I won’t need to work, nor my siblings. What can be happier than this news? My parents and everyone always pray for them for what they have done. It is a life-changing experience for me to not go out for work anymore. Now, I am the same as others and will concentrate on my studies.
Tell us about your success with your English classes. Because I was always passionate about studying English, I was a position holder in both my first and second classes – 2nd and 3rd positions. I was so happy that for the first time I was taking my English Result Card at home on which it is written “Position Holder.” I was happy because I was much more motivated and inspired by my own results. I love English and was not able to study it when I was a child laborer. I know its value and that’s why I work hard and try to learn more than what I am taught in the center. And now I am quite sure that in a few months I can speak English and can communicate with the ones who have helped me to learn it.
We have been very impressed by your motivation and work ethic. You now attend Tarbyath Private High School with thanks to financial support from the Bamyan Foundation. What would you like to say to the people at the Bamyan Foundation who have made it possible for you, two of your siblings and three of your cousins to study at a great private school? Bamyan Foundation, I don’t know who you are, how you look and how many you are, but I know that your hearts are full of love and sympathy. I thank you a lot for what you are doing for me, my siblings, my cousins and all those who you help. Studying in a governmental school in a rural area of Kabul is not beneficial. We don’t have teachers in class most of the times and studying there was becoming impossible for me. When I got to know that you will send me to Tarbyath Private School, I was too happy and was dancing. Thank you for making us all happy and making us all smile. We love you all.
What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time? I like walking in my spare time because I feel good when I walk on the street without having the purpose to work. I also like reading, that’s why I always read my English books before my teacher teaches that lesson. Though I don’t understand it a lot, I enjoy reading them. I like swimming and cycling. I am going to buy a bicycle for myself. I have saved a little money from my weekly wages, I am so excited to use it and wander around my house with that bicycle.
What would you like to do in the future? I want to be a doctor to help everyone. On the other hand, I want to be like you. I want to help people who are underprivileged. I would love to help them and make them hopeful and happy like myself.
What kind of message would you like to share with our readers? There are times when you will have no hope, no dream and no hand to help you. Please don’t give up. Stand against everything. One day, a miracle will happen and you will be helped and the world will become your supporter. Please appreciate the value of what you have. Study and learn because there are still many people who can’t study because of their weak financial situation.
About the interviewer: Shoaib Mehryar is a former student of Star Educational Society in Quetta, Pakistan. He is a freshman at the American University of Afghanistan. He teaches English at Symbiosis Institute and is the co-coordinator for the ROYA Mentorship Program in Kabul.