Asia

Portrait of a Hero: Razia Jan

Updated 5:30 PM ET, Tue November 27, 2012
Share
1 of 14
Razia Jan is fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan, where terrorists will stop at nothing to keep them from learning. She and her team at the Zabuli Education Center are providing a free education to about 350 girls, many of whom wouldn't normally have access to school. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Students at the school are released on their lunch break. Many armed groups in Afghanistan oppose the idea of girls being educated, and there have been violent attacks on some schools. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Jan meets with tribal elders in the village to speak about the school and girls issues. She said she has found it difficult to change a deep-rooted stigma against women's education. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Jan welcomes a new student, right, to the school. It costs $300 to teach each girl for an entire year, but all the fees are covered by donations to Jan's nonprofit, Razia's Ray of Hope. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Jan registers two young girls for the start of the next school year. She said she will have to refuse some girls next year, however, as she doesn't have enough classrooms and teachers. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Jan lived in America for decades, but she moved back not long after the September 11 attacks. She said she noticed that women and girls were still struggling from years of Taliban control and oppression. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
The girls have to take off their shoes before entering their classroom. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Jan's school teaches math, science, religion and three languages: English, Farsi and Pashto. "Most of our students are the first generation of girls to get educated," Jan said. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Photographer Veronique de Viguerie lived in Afghanistan for many years. "With this education," de Viguerie said, "some of these girls will be able to protect Afghan women, to find solutions for the future, to be the change of the country." Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
The Zabuli Education Center teaches kindergarten through eighth grade. "When we opened the school in 2008 ... 90% of them could not write their name," Jan said. "And they were 12- and 14-year-old girls. Now, they all can read and write." Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
To shield the students from attacks, Jan has built a new stone wall to surround the school. She also employs staff and guards who test the water for poison and check the air quality for gas. "People are so much against girls getting educated," Jan said. "So we have to do these precautions." Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
A teacher at the school corrects a girl's homework. Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
"I hope that one day these girls ... will come back and teach, because I'm not going to be there all my life," Jan said. "I want to make this school something that will last 100 years from now." Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN
Photographer de Viguerie said, "Razia is a very energetic lady, she has a strong mind, and it's always a nice surprise to see such a woman in Afghanistan." Veronique de Viguerie/Reportage for CNN