Because of its position in the Middle East, Iran has been a home to over a million refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many are children of school age. Some of them are legal and have papers giving them permission to live here, others are illegal. For the past two years the legal ones have been allowed to go to school, but they have to pay between 500,000 to 800,000 rials! ($50-$80). Many of the families can hardly afford to buy food, let alone pay for their children's education.
It was therefore interesting a few weeks ago to see a new school for refugee children run by a charity near Bagher Abbad, in the south of Tehran, on the east side of Behshte Zahra. The Kamal school, on the old Qom Road, Serah Khairabbad, opened for the first time at the beginning of the school year in September, and now has over 160 children, with ages ranging from 6-13, many of whom are going to school for the first time in their lives.
It was heartening to see how much the kids enjoyed going to school. But there is something very special about this school and the thought and ideas that went into it. The school is run by a charity called HAMI - Association for Protection of Refugee Women and Children which first began to operate in a modest way in 2000. At that time they were involved in taking care of Afghani and Iraqi refugee women in Iran and once the Iraqi refugees left and government strongly supported the departure of Afghani refugees to the point of not allowing their children to be registered in Iranian schools, then the NGO changed its attention to education and taking care of Afghani refugee children and educating and empowerment of their mothers.
Mothers learning to read
Here illiterate mothers can get education too and if they do have some education or do not wish to participate in this part of the program, the NGO, as part of its empowerment program for post-conflict women employs them to help out with cooking and preparing meals for the children at school, some of whom are their own. This enables these mothers, in a very simple and normal yet significant way, to start to gain a social identity, self respect and involvement in decision making.
We met the director Mrs Nahid Ashrafi, who I have known for many years and always found her very professional, serious and caring. I got to know about this NGO through my friend Maryam who was collecting money for the children's weekly food. With the co-operation of the Ministry of Education, HAMI uses the premises of a state primary school which is normally empty in the afternoons after the local children have finished their lessons.
HAMI is run entirely on people's donations and aid from international agencies help such as UNICEF, UNHCR, Right and Democracy, Oxfam and Save the Children. HAMI has started another school in Varamin in the south west of Tehran and intends to open one in the east side of Tehran where many more Afghani refugees live.
The head teacher Mrs Sanjabi told us that most of the children come from many parts of the city and some of them are bussed to and from the school and the costs of the service is paid by donations.
The food that were served when we were there was adasi (green lentils mixed with onions) at other times there is cheese and milk and other simple foods, unless a donor has paid for the extra costs of a special meal with more substance such as meat.
HAMI - Association for Protection of Refugee Women and Children
Fatemeh (Nahid) Ashrafi, Executive Director
Address :Second Floor . No 12 .End of Mosavi st.( Forsat ) . Barforoshan crossroads .Taleghani St .Tehran -Iran
HAMI Bank Account information:
Number: 2454 Bank Mellie Iran
Branch: Imam Khomeini, number 156
... Payvand News - 12/23/08 ... --