Afghan boy’s dream dashed in Pakistan

Published October 17, 2014
Afghan boys playing at Afghan Basti near Islamabad.—AP file photo
Afghan boys playing at Afghan Basti near Islamabad.—AP file photo
.—AP file photo
.—AP file photo
.—AP file photo
.—AP file photo

ISLAMABAD: “Being an unregistered Afghan national in Pakistan, I can’t fulfil my dream of getting education,” says Sharif Haideri, 16, who had to abandon education due to legal barriers.

“My family migrated from Kabul to Islamabad in the late 1990s and started living in a slum near the Bari Imam Shrine,” he said while talking to Dawn at a function organised by the ‘Right to Play’ in connection with the Global Dignity Day.

Also read: Afghan children toil in Pakistan

Haideri said he spent his childhood picking garbage and washing cars in various markets of Islamabad, particularly Aabpara.

“One day, a woman, who introduced herself as Zeba Hussain, met me at the Aabpara market and offered me admission to a school, and I accepted.” Haideri said that later he got admission to a private school in Bari Imam.

“After spending a few months in the school, Ms Zeba contacted me again and told me that she had opened her own school for the underprivileged and street children. Then, I moved to her school in 2008.”

But last year the boy had to quit his studies.

Know more: Number of Afghan refugees in country growing steadily

“Being an illegal migrant, I was not allowed to get myself registered with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) to appear in the 9th class examination,” he added.

“I applied for refugee status but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) rejected my application,” he said.

Ms Hussain told Dawn that Haideri was a brilliant student but being an illegal migrant he was denied registration by the FBISE.

She said around eight other Afghan students had to quit their studies at her school due to issues related to documents. Ms Hussain said Haideri was one-year-old when his family migrated to Pakistan. His father is a labourer at the Bari Imam shrine.

After being denied registration by the FBISE, Haideri joined Ms Hussain’s school as a computer teacher.

“I have noticed that unregistered Afghan families are unable to enroll their children in government schools,” Ms Hussain said, adding all children have the right to education and denying this right to the Afghans was unfair.

Despite repeated attempts, the chairman FBISE could not be approached.

However, UNHCR spokesman Dunya Khan said: “We know non-registered Afghan students are facing a lot of problems while getting education in Pakistan.” She said the UNHCR was working to make a strategy to tackle the issue. She said currently the UNHCR was facilitating only the registered refugees. “We have schools in the refugee camps for registered Afghan children,” she said.

Explore: Life of a refugee in Pakistan

It may be noted that over 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan.

Besides, over one million unregistered Afghan nationals are settled in various parts of the country which has seven million out of school children, the second highest figure in the world.

Also read: How many refugees does it take to care?

Earlier, at the Right to Play function, students took parts in various competitions to highlight the importance of dignity in the life.

“The purpose of organising the function is to sensitise the children to respect the dignity of every human,” said Iqbal Jatoi, the country manager of Right to Play.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2014

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