Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Educationby Elizabeth Suneby (Author), Suana Verelst (Illustrator)
A tale of 2 Razias! A true story.
Razia and her cousins are all curious about some developments down the street. Men and women have gathered around an empty lot in their village. Some important looking people were laying down large stones on the ground. Women were passing out chocolates wrapped in shiny papers. Just then grandfather, Baba gi, walks over to the girls and announces “This is where my school once stood”. He says “ Now they are building a new school… for girls“.
Razia cannot contain her excitement. Every night Razia would fall asleep dreaming about going to school like her brothers. She begs her Baba gi “Please Baba gi, ask Baba and Aziz if I may go too! I MUST go!”
Razia’s family is a traditional Afghani family. They live in a time of danger. Baba, the head of the family works in the farm. Aziz and Ahmed , Razia’s two elder brothers helps at the farm. Razia’s two younger brothers Jamil and Karim go to school and study at night. They attend the boys’ school in the next village.
Little does the family know that Razia has learnt to read and write on her own! She has memorized the Dari alphabet and she could spell her name. She takes scraps of newspaper that the baker wraps the bread in and learns to read from there. But Razia is afraid to tell anyone about her special skills. She must keep quiet.
But now Razia cannot wait for the school to open. A special school for girls! It was indeed a dream come true. Whenever she sees Baba gi she whispers and asks him, “Did you ask Baba and Aziz yet?” Baba gi replies that he is waiting for the right time.
Many months pass. Razia watches the school building rise brick by brick. She hears the other girls in the village chatter about the nice woman (the other Razia) who started the school. She sees girls going back home with registration forms in their hands. She sees them carrying away crisp new uniforms too! Yet there is no answer from Baba gi.
Finally one night Baba gi asks for an audience. He speak to Baba and Aziz. He tells them “Some of you were not even born yet.. long before the evil entered their country, long before Taliban and long before when women in Afghanistan were educated.” He says” Razia wants to go to school and I support her desire“. He goes on to make a case for Razia trying to convince Baba and Aziz to see how things would only get better for the family, for the village and ultimately for the country if and when girls are educated.
Razia waits breathlessly for a response. Will she finally get to go to school? Will she be able to live her dream?
As I write this book, I am reminded that today in the 21st century there are girls in many parts of the world who wish to do so much more than they ever dreamed of. There are girls like Malala who stand up for what is right and never give up. I can only imagine little Razia’s impatience to learn because I have never known what it was NOT to have school.
This is also a true story of the other Razia. The Razia who started the school for girls. Razai Jan was named one of CNN’s Heroes in 2012 for her incredible work in changing the lives of the girls in Afghanistan.
This is indeed one of the most important book that I have read. Not only is this story inspiring, but deeply moving and touching. Which is why this is a MUST read.