Borderfree Street Kids School – April 2015 to April 2016
Child Right Netherlands ( http://www.childright.nl/ ) had sponsored the street kids pilot program
in 2013 and 2014 ( posts on the pilot program at the end of this page )
Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School
Mission: To share learning skills with 100 Afghan street kids on understanding language, nature, humanity, and life, and to be students and practitioners of nonviolence.
The school’s curriculum is designed not only to enable the street kids to become literate, but, more importantly, to nurture understanding, critical thinking, and compassion for service to the earth and the human family. The students will learn about global warming, socioeconomic inequalities, and militarism with its violence and wars.
Location: Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Time period of Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School Project: 21st March 2015 to 21st March 2016
Teachers: Afghan Peace Volunteers. The volunteer teachers are Zekerullah, Zarghuna, Hadisa, Farzana, Hamida, Hooria, Ali, Masood, Ahmad Shah, Khanum Bibi, Nilufa and Shabir.
There are an estimated 60,000 Afghan children who work in the streets of Kabul to supplement their families’ incomes. The militarized economic and educational systems are failing to nurture this new Afghan generation’s yearning to build a better world.
Since August 2013, the Afghan Peace Volunteers have been running a street kids literacy and learning program for 21 Afghan street kids in Kabul, Afghanistan. The number of street kids enrolled increased to 32 in 2014. Child Right (Netherlands) funded the pilot street kid program in 2013 and 2014.
The street kids come to the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School. They attend classes in Dari and Math literacy, nonviolence and tailoring.
For the rest of the week, the street kids are encouraged to go to government schools. Government schools provide a half day of formal education. Many of the kids work in the streets all day because their families desperately need them to earn money to help put bread, rice, and other basic foods on the table. Working all day deprives the children of the chance to go to the government schools. By providing monthly gifts of rice and oil to their families, the Afghan Peace Volunteers share resources for the street kids’ basic human needs, making it easier for the kids to work for only half a day and attend government schools for the other half of the day.
Zekerullah ( a former street kid ) leads street kids walk Feb 2015. The children asked for a school for 100 street kids.
On the 20th of Jan, 2015, 80 Afghan street kids marched in Kabul to the doors of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and asked for a school. Their dream is to have a street kids school for 100 kids. A poem and video of this action can be found at “I am your child. We want a school.” Afghan Street Kids walk for a school! : http://youtu.be/b_4zxZ9te7s
Zekerullah (pictured at left), once a street kid himself, is coordinating a team of Afghan Peace Volunteers to fulfill the street kids’ dream by establishing the Borderfree Street Kids School for 100 Afghan street kids at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul.
Estimated budget of Borderfree Street Kids School for year 21st March 2015 to 21st March 2016
It costs $534 to put one street kid through the street kids school for one year.
Expanding enrolment to include 100 children will cost $53,400
Monthly sack of rice and bottle of cooking oil per kid for 1 year = $39.4 / month = $473
School material and winter clothing per kid for one year = $61
Total budget per kid for I year = $473 + $61 = $534
Please note that 91.8% of the cost per kid is spent for the monthly sack of rice and bottle of oil that each street kid gets.
Inam, standing in a newly-constructed shop space, with his blue plastic jerry-can of boot-polishing tools and a pair of sandals for his customers to wear while he polishes their boots
Enrolment and start of Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School
The survey and enrolment of the 100 street kids were done in March 2015, before the school year started in spring. Volunteer teachers worked in two survey teams to visit the 80 street kids that participated in the street kids walk in February, as well as other street kids who had heard about the program and had wanted to be included in the program.
During the home visits, the following items were surveyed:
- House – rented or owned by the street kids’ family
- Number of family members
- Occupation of father and mother
- Number of breadwinners in the household
Conditions for enrolment:
- Financially neediest families based on above survey
- Not in any political group or in any criminal gangs
The street kid are all encouraged to attend government schools.
Up till the 23rd of May 2015, 80 street kids have been enrolled. The kids have been divided into 5 classes (two classes in the morning and three in the afternoon ) based on an enrolment assessment to gauge their literacy.
This document is prepared with the help of the Afghan Peace Volunteers in the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids Team at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan (http://ourjourneytosmile.com ). Those interested to support the project can write to firstname.lastname@example.org . Donations will be directed to Voices for Creative Nonviolence U.S. and UK, who are partners in this project.
Some of the street kids that have been enrolled in the school ( May 2015 ) :
It’s so good to see happy faces at the school !
There are an estimated 60,000 Afghan children who work in the streets of Kabul to help supplement their family’s income.
Najib was a 12-year-old Afghan orphan who collected trash in the streets of Quetta, Pakistan, where he befriended Dr Hakim. Once, Dr Hakim had invited Najib and his grandmother to share some mangoes. When Hakim asked Najib to smile for a photo, Najib’s grandmother asked angrily,”Why are you asking Najib to smile? He has no reason to smile at all.”
The Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ) wish to find Najib and to put a smile back on the faces of Afghan street kids. Thus, in 2014, they are running a program for street kids, in which 21 street kids have weekly literacy classes and monthly gifts of rice and oil for their families.
Child Right ( Netherlands ) is kindly funding the street kid program. US$398 was spent this winter on warm clothing for the 21 street kids and US$390 is being spent monthly on providing oil and rice for the families of the children.
Our street kids Naseem, Hazrat, Kahar and Gul Jumma
remembering their fellow street kid killed in a suicide bombing attack in Kabul. December 2013
delivering rice and oil to their families, December 2013
December 2013 : Read about Safar the Afghan street kid at
Ghulam teaching the street kids, Jan 2014
Ismael with street kids in literacy class, Jan 2014
Safar in class, Jan 2014
Our growing street kids’ class
Mahdi and Ismael ( far left and middle ) at home
Mahdi, Safar and Ismael with their new, second-hand shoes
Habib working in the streets,
taking the weight of pedestrians for a fee
Habib receiving his monthly rice and oil
Habib with his brother bringing the rice and oil home
At the door of the yard where Habib’s family rents a corer for his tarpaulin home
Habib in his all-in-one-room tarpaulin home
On 9th of Feb 2014, the Afghan Peace Volunteers organized a lunch meal for the 21 street kids. Two of our female Afghan Peace Volunteers, Shakira and Sakina, cooked Qabuli Rice, a favourite dish among Afghans. There was ample fruit to go around too
our two cook
the rice pot
the square ‘table’
sharing a meal together
the street kids say no to all forms of violence
The street kids program is ongoing, with the latest rice and oil distribution done on 23rd Feb 2014
Habib and other street kids receive their rice and oil
Please read a story on Habib written by Maya Evans : Mother Miriam and Habib http://vcnvuk.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/mother-mariam-and-habib
Habib’s smile on a rainy day in Kabul
Mahdi, receiving and bringing home his winter duvets
Mahdi, feeling comfortable under the duvets
Ismael with his duvets
Rohullah getting ready to bring home his duvets
Afghan Street Children’s Drawings ( July to September 2014
Mehdi works polishing boots in the streets of Kabul. He can be seen polishing boots in the video clip Afghan street kid, ‘I don’t enjoy polishing boots’
“I work as a boot polisher in the ‘bazaar’ ( market ), alongside shops and street vendors. I drew a street vendor selling apples from a wooden push cart and a shop selling my favorite fruit, yellow bananas!”
Mehdi’s work on the streets
Mehdi’s wish to be a doctor
Rohullah ( about 8 years old )
Rohullah burns wild rue in a metal can. He swings the metal can to disperse the smoke and scent from the burning rue at passersby, or at drivers in passing vehicles. The smoke and scent is said to chase away ‘evil spirits’ and for that, some people would give Rohullah a few Afghanis ( Afghan currency ).
“I don’t like this work of burning rue to earn a few Afghanis. I like ducks.”
Rohullah’s work on the streets
Gul Jumma ( about 10 years old )
Gul Jumma helps her family by collecting discarded plastic, paper and cartons in the streets, to be used as fuel in her mud home in an internally displaced camp in Kabul. She is originally from Helmand province, where a war rages on between the U.S./NATO/Afghan Army coalition and local fighters, including the Taliban.
“I like wearing colorful dresses when I go to weddings or when my family and I are guests at the houses of our relatives and friends. My favorite fruit is the pomegranate.”
Gulsom ( about 13 years old )
Gulsom ( left ) with her friend, Fatima ( right )
“I used to sell candies to men who smoke the hookah. Once, I wore a multi-color skirt which I liked very much. In the drawing, the man smoking the hookah refused to buy candies from me, so I cried because I was sad.”
Gulsom’s work on the streets
Gulsom’s wish to be a lawyer
Fatima ( about 13 years old )
“I drew myself standing outside the shop where the people gather to smoke the hookah. I don’t like this work, and I don’t like the people who smoke the hookah.”
Fatima’s wish to be a teacher
December 2014 Update on Street Kids Program
The street kids program has continued through 2014. Since August 2014, the classes for street kids have been held at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers who work as coordinators in the Street Kids Team are Zekerullah, Zarghuna, Farzana, Hadisa and Barath Khan. They have recently been joined by Bismillah and Sharif. These volunteers teach the street kids, arrange for their rice and oil distribution, and implement other programs to care for and nurture the street kids.
The 21 street kids currently enrolled in the program are : Mehdi, Ismael, Gulsom, Fatima, Habib, Matin, Gadir, Nisar, Samiullah, Saboor, Nur Rahman, Rahul, Rohullah, Mustafa, Mursal, Gul Jumma, Hazratullah, Abdul Kahar, Naseem, Mirwais and Bakhti. There are plans to possibly enrol 10 more street kids this winter, including Inam.
Once a week, the street children attend Dari and Math literacy classes as well lessons on nonviolence. Once a month, they receive a sack of rice and a bottle of cooking oil to supplement their family needs.
Plans are underway to hold the very first Street Kids Walk in Jan 2015. The Walk will give the kids a chance to describe their wish to study in school and to become doctors, engineers and teachers! The Street Kids Team will also lay out their hope o establish a school for 100 street kids in 2015. More on this ‘dream street kid school’ soon.
Meanwhile, enjoy the verses and photos below, and have a Happy 2015!
“We understand what you understand. These are our stories.”
Afghan Street Kids
Inam hopes to be enrolled in the Borderfree Street Kids School in 2015!
Inam with Rohullah in the streets of Kabul
Inam, like the sun, has a ready, warm smile,
with an extra pair of sandals, beige.
You would wear them while he polishes your boots.
“Yes, sir, there’s so much brown and grey dust in Kabul!”
And you’re tired after taking
the side streets to avoid chance, planned suicide attacks.
“It’ll only take a minute, Sir,” Inam beams,
“everything would be over.”
Nur Rahman also polishes boots
Nur Rahman dreams of becoming an Afghan Star
Nur Rahman imagines taking the stage,
belting out songs of unreciprocated love,
and tulips, and the Amu River,
“I want to be an Afghan Star!”
We can already spot his potential,
the cheeky, cherubic cheeks,
the dreamy, solid eyes,
Even an affectionate nickname:
“They call me Shanmu!”
“My phone was already connected to the INTER-NET,
but I want to cut it off,
‘cos they steal one Afghani each time
I turn on my phone
to listen to Aryana Sayeed sing.”
Gulsom ( right ) speaks with the volunteer teachers
Gulsom ( left ) and Fatima receiving their oil and rice
Till a few months ago, Gulsom
would dread going to the ‘hookah’ joints.
She had to pretend she didn’t mind the smoke,
and the men who wanted
to forget their plans to smuggle themselves
to an increasingly xenophobic, Islamophobic Europe,
men who ‘knew better’ than to resort to heroin.
“Some of them looked lecherous,”
Gulsom had quickly recognized human frailty,
before, soon, she would be hidden from men,
apparently for her good.
She dreams of becoming a judge,
when she could be as sure as she was during the class test,
“Nonviolence means we harm no one and nothing in creation.”
Habib’s mother and Habib with his weighing scale last year
Habib back in our street kids program, hoping to be a doctor some day
His mother was so distraught when
Habib left for a ‘madrassah’ in Faryab Province
that she had to be placed on an IV drip for days.
A tearful storm wet the ‘web-eye-openings’ of her ‘burqa’.
“Did you manage to study there?”
“No, there was fighting,”
his voice not yet broken by puberty,
his desire to be a doctor un-dampened
by the weight of the world.
You see, he used to take the weight of pedestrians for a fee.
“You’re a good 90 kilos, Sir!”
The 5 Afghanis for his soft declaration of obesity
were not enough to keep the pet parakeets he had loved so much.
Rohullah has a partner in his work of washing cars
Rohullah is distracted
“I can say ‘how are you’
in Dari, Pashto, English and Russian!”
That’s it! Rohullah’s mind is in the streets
that clatter with a thousand sounds
so he can’t concentrate on forming
more than five Dari alphabets .
But he’ll stand respectfully, and flexibly,
when the exasperated but kind teacher tells him to.
A day-old bubble gum makes his tongue
stumble over his counting to
“Finest Superstore is a great place
for catching cars to wash.” he says,
“The cloth and pail?
My partner has them.
We split whatever we’re given.”
Gul Jumma learns Dari
Gul Jumma knows when to speak
Over the past year, her Dari became as fluent
and sweet-sounding as her native tongue.
“I collect plastic which my mom
uses as fuel in the Camp, explains Gul Jumma ( Friday Flower ).
“I have a doll,
which wears a black dress, a scarf, no shoes.
I carry her. I like her.”
“Do you prefer Sangin in Helmand, or Kabul?”
( The British, including the Prince, were based there )
When there’s war everywhere,
children choose to be where they feel safer,
where their mothers warm up the tea and leftover bread,
Char-e-Qambar Internally Displaced Persons Camp,
“Kabul,” she didn’t hesitate,
unlike when she said
“I had five brothers. Two died.
And, so did a sister.”
“What’s your wish in life?”
She looks away.
She twirls her fingers.
She doesn’t answer
because she knows that her wish to be a teacher
may be quenched by a NATO bomb,
like the one that killed her father in Sangin,
or by an improvised ‘insurgent’ device
that had killed her friends near Kabul Polytechnic.
as silent as the world.
Watch the 20th Jan 2015 Afghan Street Kids Walk on video at
On the 20th of Jan, 2015, 80 Afghan street kids marched in Kabul to the doors of the Afghan Independent Human Right Commission, and asked for a school.
Let this be on record, that in a global economy based on force, in which, very soon, 1% of the world’s population will own as much as the rest of the world, in which children have little choice but to work, and in which children make up most of the civilian war casualties, these street kids were showing us all the way, the humble way of love.
Nothing romantic, but all patient, and beautiful!
They were not asking the Commission for a school. They were asking fellow human beings for a school, because they were asking for what all of us seem to be losing, the quiet human qualities to recognize what is valuable and to make peace with all: friendship, freedom and dignity.
Afghan street kids want a school
80 Afghan Street Kids walked in Kabul to ask for a school, led by Zekerullah, himself once a street kid
Rain on the 20th of Jan didn’t stop them
With dignity, the street kids walked
“I am your child. We want a school.”
Inam wishing everyone a Happy 2015!
Inam building his dream school from a lego set
Inam was excited about the walk
Inam watches in support as Ismael is interviewed
Inam in the protest line
“I want a school,
unlike a school.”
Inam, unaware he was making Afghan history,
walked, morphed into a mini-visionary, and understood
that we don’t get things by asking,
especially asking government officials in high, swivel or mahogany chairs.
We get bread by
fracturing the side of a used engine oil bottle,
strapping it on as our shoe cleaning box,
and sitting in the littered streets
polishing other people’s boots.
Though he doesn’t feel good
about his view of passing legs hidden in jeans or burqas,
there are customers here
in a commoditized life,
where, instead of growing food,
the city bangs on computers and copies sheaves of forms,
to extract from her slum-dwellers
their energies and bribes, and the land’s mineral flesh,
as well as their children’s.
Inam arrives for the walk,
zooming in for the lego set,
putting the blocks in place piece by piece,
the blue door
of his dream school,
‘where I can study’, safely,
he says, because you’ll understand this too,
‘I am your child.”
Zekerullah sold his wares in Bamiyan City
He fulfilled his promise to ex-U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry by returning to school
He coordinated the Borderfree Street Kids Team ( Zekerullah, Zarghuna, Hadisa, Farzana, Bismillah, Barath Khan ) in planning the walk
Zekerullah speaking with a reporter
Zekerullah represents change, and would have done Gandhi, Badshah Khan and Martin Luther King proud
Zekerullah, a volunteer teacher-coordinator, shared,
“I was once selling chewing gum,
cigarettes, pens, nail clippers and batteries,
from a wooden frame hung on my neck,
by hotel owners,
up, down, up and down the bazaar.”
He looks at them confidently,
as their teacher of nonviolence,
himself having been beaten by his teachers,
“Never think that you can’t study,
Never let anyone tell you can only be a street kid.”
You are not born a slave,
“We’re also human beings!”
I first photographed Zekerullah selling his street wares,
so seeing him walk in front
of children all eager to have a school,
echoing “We want dignity!”,
I saw Martin Luther King.
I wanted to tell Zekerullah to dance like he loves to,
to spark movements of uncontainable freedom among the children,
but his gait was already reflecting the colourless sky blue
captured in their exuberant Borderfree scarves.
I wish you had seen his creativity, and forgiveness,
as he marched like an earthquake with little kings and queens,
peacefully protesting our globally violent economy,
turning the rainy morning
into the million wishes
of small people everywhere.
Fatima walked like a seasoned activist
Fatima’s drawing on her previous work selling candies in the streets
Fatima in the Street Kids Program of the Afghan Peace Volunteers
Fatima wants to be a teacher
Zekerullah and I had spotted Fatima in a rabbit-eared pullover,
a stove mantel in her cold hands,
when we went to visit sick Mehdi,
having heard Ismael say, “He’s sleeping at home.
There’s no money to see the doctor.”
Fatima, a relative of Mehdi,
led us to his rented room,
“He’s just gone to the dispensary.”
I had cringed at the thought of customary drugs
poisoning Mehdi at a handsome pharmaceutical profit,
though today, Fatima, Mehdi, Ismael
and each street child walked like tall breadwinners.
“We don’t want charity!” she chorused after Zekerullah,
past unqualified pharmacies and inappropriate shopping complexes,
speaking to adult calculations
that leave kids wandering in the alleys
for a way to survive.
Fatima’s father was making the plastic spades of snow shovels,
hoping for the white rain to arrive
in desiccated Kabul.
“Fatima, go fetch some water!”
before a mining corporation siphons
the people’s minimal supply
to satiate the Aynak copper mine,
as noted by the colluding World Bank.
“We want to go to a good school…”
where learning is valued above metals and rare earth elements,
and where kids can be kids,
enquiring, curious, friendly
Fatima held the banner
‘We say ‘no’ to all forms of violence’
as if she was addressing all the stereotypes
heaped by governments on the poor,
on race, religion or some other human thought or trait,
breaking through the subterfuge,
saying with all her oppressed might,
‘”We want a school!”
The street kids were determined, and sincere
They were passionate
They were small, but hopeful and sure
They want a school