Battling Terrorism Using Pencils for Children

Picture taken by SMSgt Rex Temple during his last tour in Afghanistan.

I am beginning to realize how important it is to educate the children and women in Afghanistan to bring peace to their country so that our troops can come home. While reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, I came across a fact that was very surprising to me in comparison to our culture. He stated that educating children, particularly girls, with the maximum of a fifth grade education level made a huge difference in the region that they came from. It was astonishing to me because the thought of only having a fifth grade level of education and making a difference seems impossible to me. Studying in college now, and looking back at elementary school, there’s no way I would have thought that was “high level” of education to be reached and that someone with that level of education could still be regarded as an educated person.

There are other reasons though that makes Afghan girls having an elementary level of education a big deal. For many these girls, the chance to even go to school is a privilege and they have many forces working against them. Not only are their actual schools sometimes cloth tents without any desks inside (like the picture above), but if they live in the Taliban controlled areas they are constantly threatened with violence or a horrifying death if they attend school. Usually the people responsible for these threats are the Taliban because they do not want women to be educated and learn how to make their own decisions and judgments. Keeping regular citizens, including the women, uneducated helps the Taliban stay in power. It’s difficult for someone who cannot read to learn about alternatives to the Taliban propaganda.

The Taliban are not the only people who stop Afghan girls from learning. Sometimes the people in their own villages who still think women are less valuable members of society than men present another obstacle. For example, in one of SMSgt Rex Temple’s blog entries, he wrote about  his experience with an Afghan school that taught both boys and girls. He told his readers how the Head Mistress of the school made the soldiers give the school supplies to the boys first and then whatever was left could be given to the girls. I could not believe that a WOMAN was taking away school supplies from her own sex! How could she do that when I’m sure she had to go through hard times to get to the head mistress position in the school. It was almost like she was going against what a school is about: equal opportunity for both boys and girls.

When I read things like that it just makes me so passionate about what I am doing with our school supplies drive and I want everyone to be as excited as I am. Not only should people care because they would be helping children obtain an education, but they would be helping fight the Taliban and the terror they impose on their people as well as other nations like our own. Anything to stick it to them gets me going!

But sadly today I realized how challenging it will be to get people to care about our cause – mostly because people are so disconnected from this war. To be able to reach out and make people care, we learned to collaborate with different organizations. The more people we have behind us, the stronger our cause is. Moreover, each of my classmates will be getting in contact with organizations here at USF and also in the Tampa Bay area. A couple students and I will be getting in touch with our old high school teachers from Freedom High School located in New Tampa. We are currently brainstorming ideas about how we will be able to move the high school students into action. Regardless, I am sure that our old teachers will be extremely happy to get involved somehow, whether it is by having a coin jar for shipping costs or donating old school supplies. It’s just a matter of getting started now!

Click here for a complete list of supplies we are gathering or click here for information on how to make a tax deductible donation to our shipping fund. Or if you know of a local school or a community group that would like to join our efforts, please email us at or visit our school supplies project Facebook page.

About arantzazugarate

I am a student in the Honors College at the University of South Florida working with my classmates to bring education to Afghanistan's children.
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