Dr. Homa Hoodfar and Afghan self governing Schools in Iran

Dr. Homa Hoodfar and Afghan self governing Schools in Iran- Written by Nader Musavi- 19 November 2018

The most important and first academic research on Afghan self-governing schools in Iran was conducted by Dr. Homa Hoodfar;  the Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University in Canada. “Afghan Self-Governing School”
It was the name given to our schools by The Ministry of Education of Iran and The Bureau for Aliens & Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs in Iran.
Schools that are set up illegally and underground in residential houses and basements, husseiniyahs (is a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the Remembrance of Muharram), mosques, cattle farms, etc. by the Afghan refugees themselves for educating Afghan refugee children who are not granted a residence permit by Iranian government so they are deprived of education because Iranian public schools refuse to enroll them due to their legal residence status.
It was 2003-2004 about sixteen years ago that I met Ms. Hoodfar during her researches. She had come to our school.
Earlier, I distributed and compiled more than three thousand copies of a questionnaire about Afghan refugee children’s human relationships and identities among Afghan refugee students.
In her visit of the school, she was very happy and surprised as she saw the questionnaire sheets and asked,
What was the purpose of these questionnaires?
I said “I did it out of curiosity to read the beautiful writings of the children”.
I said “I wanted to understand better how the kids think about this issues”.
She laughed and said, “Did you distribute and collect all these three thousand questionnaires just out of curiosity?”
I said yes.
She said it is interesting, I highly recommend you to study research or sociology.
That day, she took a bunch of those sheets for a closer look.
Of course, she mentioned it in her article too, and because of my cooperation in this project, she invited me to Cyprus for a meeting where she wanted to present the results of her researches.
Fortunately, after much efforts, I could travel to Cyprus and attend the meeting.
After that, I accompanied her in two other research projects, one on the impacts of immigration on Afghan refugee women in Iran and the other on self-governing schools.
Professor Hoodfer was a knowledgeable, meticulous, very hardworking and patient lady with a smile on her face and a lot of humility.
Every time she came to Iran, she called me to ask about the educational problems of the refugee students and the Farhang school.
The last time was in March 2017, when she called me to say she is in Iran, I went to visit her. She were saddened by the death of her husband.
When I explained about the school and our educational activities, She got very happy and encouraged me as always, she said it is very good that the school is still active and gives the children an opportunity to study. Her biggest concern was young girls dropping out of school, and she put a lot of emphasis on keeping my efforts on providing education for them.
Years ago when we talked about students who had lost their fathers, and I called them orphans.
She said sadly, don’t these children have mothers?
I said they have.
She said, Then why do you say they are orphans?
Is not their mother their guardian?
after that I never called these children as orphan again, and I always referred to them as “single-parent” children.
I hope you good health and happiness, dear master.

PS: Her research on The Afghan self-governing schools in Iran is published in the cultural and social quarterly Goftogo (Dialogue), No. 50, which was focused on Afghanistan issues.


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