Cold and Dusty Dusk

self governing school

Cold and Dusty Dusk
– Written by Nader Musavi-21st Oct 2013, The unit 2 which does not exist anymore

As far as I can remember, most of the separations, abandonings and departures in my life have happened in the early autumn.
About forty years ago, when I was an eight year old boy, some of my good neighbors and friends, Asad, Juma Khan and Habibullah, abandoned our village to immigrate to Iran, on the sunset of a cold autumn day. A sad sunset just like today, cold and dusty. After they had left, me, my brother and my sisters went to their empty house. Their house was a short distance from ours & we used to go there to get fresh water from their house’s well where sometimes I knocked on their wooden doors to call Assad, Habibullah and Juma Khan to go & play together for hours in the alleys. But that evening, when we were walking in that alley, there was a heavy silence everywhere and no sound came from those empty houses. In our childish imaginations,

we believed that after a family moves out of a house, the Jinn goes there so we would warn each other not to go inside the house. That was a gloomy sunset just like today.
In the last days of autumn 1362 (1983), about 30 years ago, when I abandoned my father’s house in the village of Ali Chupan in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, it was a cold and windy day. My parents, brother and sisters had left two years ago and when I left the village, my grandparents were still alive and several other families were still living there. When I was getting on the bus from our village to Kabul, I hesitated, looked at the alley, the garden and all our village for the last time and cried. I had cried a few days ago too. When I looked at my Bujols (The part of the sheep’s leg bone that we used to play with as a toy) and the Tushleha( marbles) that were in cloth bags and put them in the niche of our house. There were no other playmates or children left in our neighborhood to give them my toys. The toyes that most of them were memories of my friends who had migrated before me. Our cities and villages had been insecure for several years. During the days, the Soviet forces and sometimes the State Communist forces used to come, and at nights it was the Mujahideen forces turn to come and extort people of our village. Most villagers had left their homes for fear of war and looting, and sought refuge in Iran, Pakistan and other countries. It was another cold and windy day when I left our village.
In the autumn 1385 (2006), when the police officers sealed off the Farhang School unit one for the first time and we had to close the school and evacuate there. When the broker was kicking the table, chair, cupboard, etc. to break them. It seemed that he was greedily ruining everything to find something more precious in it. In that commotion, I looked at my friend and colleague Mohammad Karim, who had tears in his eyes and he was watching those ruins just like mourning people. And he was watching that the results of our toil for the last six years, was being destroyed under the feet of the broker. That too was one another cold and
dusty sunset.
In 1391 (2012) again in the sunset of a cold autumn day, My uncle called to say that your father had died in his hometown. I remembered my father and the last time we met about ten years ago. My father had married another woman and left us years ago. I imagined the last pictures of my father I had in my mind. Once again that feeling of despair came over me.
That day, I was mourning a man again. It seemed to be another dusty day.
autumn of 1392 (2013) , Today, when the recycling workers were breaking the old desks and benches of the second unit of Farhang school, again the same childhood feelings came alive to me. The feelings telling me that Assad, Habibullah and Juma Khan abandoned here and you may never see your best friends again. The same feelings tell you that you will never see your father again and you have to make an end to all the memories of him. The same feeling of loss, mourning and fading memories. Everything in this school makes a memory come alive to me. Memories of painting the school and friends who helped us with that. How we were thinking, joking and laughing for writing every word on the school walls. Memories of students standing in several regular rows in blue uniforms that I was congratulating at the beginning of the school year. The place where I used to sit on a chair every morning and greet Ghodratullah, Arash, Younes, Hassan and Mohammad Shah when they arrived at school. I remember when the painter was painting the schoolyard walls, it seemed to me that the walls of the schoolyard were a good place to write inspirational sentences. We talked to each other to choose the best sentences, & finally we decided to write: “Let’s bring prosperity and peace to our homeland, with knowledge and friendship.” I thought that when the students enter the school yard, they should see the greetings from their school first. That’s why I wrote “Hello, my good friend” on a wall in the school yard exactly where they see it when they walk in. I even wrote it with this intention that if one day the police officers are going to come & seal the school off, they will read it and maybe it will make them change their minds because of our friendly greetings & friendly manner. Once this happened, in 1391(2013), some police officers came to our school and checked the classes and wrote reports then said that there is not any especial problem, just you do not have an establishment license. Then they left and never returned.
Maybe “Hello my good friend” dissuaded them from sealing
our school off!
Each one of the tables and chairs and blackboards and whiteboards that were disintegrating into pieces under the hammers of recycling workers, was a memory and a story for me. That summer, the police wanted to seal our school again. After a month of follow up on the school case at the police station, finally I succeeded to solve the problem with great difficulty. Then the landlord said:” I want to increase the rent”. I talked to the landlord about that, but every effort was inconclusive. He said another tenant was willing to pay two times more than what you pay. I tried to raise the money he asked for building rent but I could not. Even the families of our students could not help to afford it. I asked everyone I knew for help but finally I could not provide the money. This evening, the real estate agency called me to tell me I have to take the desks and benches & evacuate the building because the building has been rented to a new tenant. I called the father
of one of my students whose job is to recycle iron. He sent two of his colleagues. They came and in two hours hammered all the desks and benches and all the school property along with 6 years of memories, the songs of joy and laughter, storytelling and book reading, the children’s song and anthem with their hard hammer blows. They put them in the back of their blue truck and took them all away. It seems strange to me that again it is a cold and dusty day and I feel like a mourner.
Those poems, memoirs and letters, the terrifying moments and bitter events are very familiar for Afghan refugees living in Iran and also for principals and teachers of self-governing schools. Every Afghan refugee in Iran, even their children, knows the story of self-governing schools. Schools that have been set up in residential houses, basements, ranches, brick kilns, poultry farms, and wherever a blackboard could be placed on the wall and a child could sit on the floor. Self-governing schools have been operating in Iran for about 30 years. These schools are for Afghan refugee children, children
who have no place for education, no one reads books and stories for them, no library gives them books; because they are not granted residency permits by Islamic Republic of Iran. For afghan refugee children who are deprived of any opportunities to continue their education, these self-governing schools have always been the only and last light of hope.

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