16 April 2009 - Two Afghan girls have won gold medals at an international education competition. Meena Sanjar, 17 and Rowida Abidi also 17 from Kabul’s Afghan-Turk girls’ high school came top at an education competition held on 3 and 4 April in Baku, Azerbaijan. 173 students participated from 30 countries.
Afghanistan won gold, America won silver, and India and Pakistan shared third place.
“This is strong proof of our children’s talent and Afghanistan must not be called a conflict country anymore,” said Ms. Shaima Sarban, a teacher at the Zarghoona high school in Kabul. “Not long ago we were banned from education and we were not even allowed to leave our houses without a male family member accompanying us. Now that our country is relatively peaceful our children have become top in the world.”
This competition takes place every year amongst Turk high schools which are present in over 120 countries. The competition is aimed at improving the level of students' understanding and knowledge in science subjects and to introduce their talents to the world community.
In an exclusive interview with UNAMA, Meena Sanjar said she believed that her win was not just due to luck but rather her aptitude, diligence and the perseverance she has given to her lessons.
Since grade 1 at the age of 7 she has held the top position in her class. “I had a strong confidence in myself that I would win and the credit of this big achievement goes to my respected teachers and to my country,” said Meena Sanjar. “Some of the competitors from other countries were stunned to see us win the gold medals. They only knew Afghanistan as a poor country, devastated by war.”
Many girls attending schools in Afghanistan have faced threats. In November 2008, 15 girls had acid sprayed in their faces near their school in Kandahar. Subsequent arrests showed that the attackers had been paid the equivalent of US$ 2,000 for each girl they attacked.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund there were 293 incidents against schools in 2008, including 52 schools that were burned down.
During these attacks, 92 students lost their lives and 169 were injured. “Education is the basic right of every human and Afghan children want to enjoy this right too, especially girls who were deprived of this right for years and are still suffering. My message to those carrying out attacks against girls’ schools is to stop and allow Afghan children to receive an education as they are the future of this country,” Meena Sanjar said.