Frontline Stories

My First New School Supplies

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Growing up with a father addicted to drugs, Negina, 12, from Afghanistan, was forced to work alongside her mother from sunrise to sunset to provide for her five younger siblings. They did everything they could to find money to survive – from collecting rubbish on the streets to shelling pistachios or washing clothes for neighbours.

“I like to go to school, but we didn’t have money to buy school supplies,” Negina says.

At that time, Negina chose not to raise the subject with her mother, who was doing all she could to care for her children. “I didn’t want to make her sad,” Negina says.

In Afghanistan, at least a quarter of children between the ages of five and 14 are involved in child labour. Like Negina, 70% of these children have stated their greatest aspiration was to have the opportunity to study, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Labour and Social Affairs.

World Vision is working to support these children in gaining an education at street children centres. Negina has been coming to one of the centres almost every day for three years, “I am now in class three,” Negina says, smiling. She is involved in psychosocial, educational and health services. She also continues to help her mother wash clothes and shell pistachio nuts after school.

Recently, our street children centres received thousands of additional school supplies including notebooks, pens and erasers. The extra materials make it possible for children in need to attend school.

Negina could hardly contain her excitement when she received her supplies – it was the first time she has ever owned new school supplies. Holding up her favourite pen, she exclaimed: “Look, look! This pen has 12 colours: green, red, blue… I can write in any of them!”

Mr. Poya, a World Vision counsellor at the street children centre says, “A child will definitely have difficulties in learning if [they lack the tools] to learn quickly. To motivate children, especially street children [whose focus is earning an income for the family], we should provide school supplies for them.”

Having a notebook and drawing supplies might seem mundane to a lot of children, but for Negina, they mean the world. The little money families like hers have goes toward food and fuel for warmth in winter. The bare necessities rarely include school supplies.

“I would still keep them, even if the notebook would not have blank space anymore or the pens would dry up, because they are one of the best gifts I have ever received in my life,” says Negina. She is planning to write all her wishes and dreams in the notebook.

About 168 million children around the world are involved in child labour. It can be damaging to their health and often prevents them from finishing their education. We have been working in Afghanistan since 2001, helping to ensure children enjoy good health, are educated for life, experience love, and are cared for and protected.

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