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Education

How This Free School Is Bringing Hope to Afghan Girls

This article was contributed by Beth Murphy, the Director of Films at The GroundTruth Project and founder of Principle Pictures. Her film “What Tomorrow Brings”, a recipient of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, featuring Razia and the girls’ school airs on PBS’s POV series October 31st.​


DEH’SUBZ, AFGHANISTAN — When Razia Jan wanted to start a girls’ school in an Afghan village that had never had one, she was told it was impossible.  That was 8 years ago. Today, there are nearly 600 students in grades K-12, and the second class of seniors is preparing for graduation.

When Razia realized the girls were having trouble doing their homework at night because they didn’t have electricity, she bought them solar lights so that they can charge by the window during classes.  

And when she found out about a disabled girl languishing at home who desperately wanted to go to school, like her sister and cousin, Razia tracked down a special wheelchair for her to navigate the village’s bumpy dirt roads and built a special desk so she could learn to write.

Blazing a trail, turning on lights, breaking down barriers — that’s the story of the Zabuli Education Center, the first school for girls in the rural Deh’Subz village, and the only free private school in all of Afghanistan.  This school – like education itself – is about so much more than bricks and mortar. Inside the walls of the Zabuli Education Center, throughout the village, and across the country, Razia is teaching a vital lesson:  Girls matter. 

“I want these girls to be able to speak up in their families and in their community and be heard… be listened to,” says Razia who was born and raised in southern Afghanistan by parents who never questioned whether she would finish high school and go on to college.

Today, she sees her students fighting for that right in a country that is slipping into chaos – a chaos that increasingly threatens women’s rights and girls education.  “I don’t know what tomorrow brings,” Razia says, “but I know these girls deserve to learn, and as long as I’m alive, I will help them do that.”

Learn More About Razia: Meet Razia, the Woman Who Started a School in One of the Worst Places to Be a Girl