Afghanistan: Education and the Legacy of War

Shaun McCanna, for the Pulitzer Center


So what time do you start working each morning, I ask? I work from 5 AM to noon. Then I go home and get ready for school. How much do you make each day delivering water? I make fifty to sixty Afghanis (one dollar to one dollar and twenty cents). Do you do any other types of work? I lay bricks too. When did you learn to lay bricks? When I was eight.

I walk with Nassar as he continues to roll his wheelbarrow down the dirt road, straining under the weight of the many ten and twenty-gallon containers filled with water. As he continues on I ask him what his father does for a living? He can't work, he has shrapnel in his legs from the war. Do you have any brothers? Yes, one. Does he work? No, he lost his leg. I visit Nassar at his school the next day.

He has a backpack, and a baseball cap, seemingly important items for Kabul's young schoolboys. But he has no books in his backpack, no paper, and only a single pen. He sits on the floor in a class of over forty boys, listening to the lesson delivered in the afternoon's sweltering heat. I had asked him if he intended to stay in school through twelfth year, and he said he did. He added that his favorite subject is Dari and hopes to attend university. I asked him why. Because I want to be someone someday.