Opinion/Letters to the Editor September 2021


Sept. 2 issue:

Guest commentary:

CCA student’s Zoom call with school in Kabul, Afghanistan: ‘We fear for our lives’

By Jack Shi

It was surreal to sit in class during the first week of school, listening to the terrifying events in Afghanistan. My history teacher, Mr. Timothy Stiven, had spent the last few weeks working day and night to get exit visas to coed students of a Kabul school. The students and teachers wanted someone to talk to, and my history class was at the exact time they could connect: 9:35 a.m. PST, or 9:05 p.m. GST in Kabul, the middle of their night to avoid internet traffic.

The classroom was still. We collectively turned our ears to the feeble voice floating from the phone propped up on the desk, connected to dial-in audio. The sullen faces of the Afghanistan girls painted a picture of sorrow on each of our computers. A teacher’s voice broke over. He was NY, (we are not using full names in this publication for their safety), the head professor of the Kabul school. His students are members of the oppressed Hazara ethnic group, a minority discriminated against even before the Taliban take-over. Their school was bombed in 2018, with more than 60 student casualties. As professor Y. explained in a matter-of-factly tone about the danger they were in, he said one thing that stuck in my mind: “We are stuck. We can only think of survival.”

Just from the first few days of history class, I had already learned enough to understand what he truly meant. History shows us that education is what keeps human society evolving, technologically and socially. I learned about the Agricultural Revolution, a turning point that mitigated the worry about food, shelter, and basic survival, therefore becoming the first driving motion for advances in human thinking. I concluded that sexism and class inequality are rooted in agriculture as well. As humans saved time not worrying about staying alive, those that had the most time to establish leadership rose to the top of their societies first. Those first were the men, who biologically had a slight advantage. Today, that advantage is irrelevant, but the mindset still endures in modern culture, especially in Afghanistan.

When Professor Y. said that survival was their only concern, it sent indescribable fear into my heart. The Taliban rule was halting education, the only opponent against sexism, racism, and all other inequities. The girls of the Kabul school explained fearfully how almost all Taliban fighters were uneducated, making them exponentially more dangerous. Only education had the power to prove that these injustices were pointless.

Only two weeks before, the older students had taken the Kankor, their equivalent of the SAT. They found out just days ago they would not be getting their results. The students were in emotional turmoil, many spending the night before crying. In addition, college students took involuntary leave, and teachers could not perform their jobs. Chemistry teacher M H J expressed his grief, “It feels empty to have so much to say, and have no one to listen”. They said they would see us in another two weeks, but the reality is that they do not know what will happen by then. When Professor Y. said in his calm, composed voice that they feared for their lives, that was exactly what he meant.

Despite these grim outlooks on the future of Afghanistan, there was still hope in their new generation of heroes. S. J. is a high school student whose Kankor results were lost, but that does not change that he worked on solar panel technology for his community for months. He is already fulfilling his dreams of becoming an engineer. Z. M. is another student who studied computer engineering at Kabul college. She is a sophomore in her fourth semester and loves math. F. M. is a student with a passion for history and literature and studied at the University of Afghanistan. She expresses her talent through her poems. “These students need someone to talk through their feelings and opinions”, teacher M. J. said. “We are extremely thankful and happy you can talk to us. We will never forget it”.

Just before the video ended, one of my classmates asked the Afghanistan school what they would like the students of America to know. They told us: to appreciate the opportunities we are privileged to have in a democratic country and use the fullest extent of our knowledge to help others. The Taliban might have the power to oppress these students for now, but they can never take away the knowledge they have worked for.

— Jack Shi is a sophomore student at Canyon Crest Academy


Wonder what they’re smoking?

Gratified to hear that the thorny issues of affordable housing and homelessness will be alleviated if not totally solved by allowing lot splits and accessory dwelling units in the Ranch. Wonder what they’re smoking in Sacramento?

Keith Behner

Former RSF Association Planning Director