Afghan Students Struggle To Navigate U.S. Schools After Fleeing Taliban
April 7, 2022

Afghan Students Struggle To Navigate U.S. Schools After Fleeing Taliban



Mahdi Kabuli likes math. Positive, geometry eludes him typically, however total he’s actually good on the topic. At 18, Kabuli is already fascinated by school, the place he needs to check economics or laptop science. As of final yr, nearing the tip of his time on the prime personal faculty in Afghanistan, he was on monitor to do it.

Then the Taliban took over his dwelling, Kabul, in August, and he, his mom and his 4 youthful brothers have been compelled to flee to the USA. They felt fortunate to make it out: A day after they left Kabul, there was an explosion proper the place they’d been hiding. Kabuli and his household got here to the U.S. with solely the garments they have been sporting and no matter papers they might seize.

However these papers didn’t embrace their faculty transcripts.

When Kabuli and two of his brothers, ages 15 and 16, tried to enroll of their new public faculty in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the varsity informed them that with out their transcripts, they would want to start out over from the ninth grade.

Because the oldest son within the family, Kabuli felt liable for supporting his household. His plan was to work part-time whereas he completed his remaining yr of highschool. Beginning once more as a freshman would make this harder.

The 2 brothers determined to just accept the varsity’s phrases and enter the system within the ninth grade. Kabuli felt he couldn’t.

“As a result of they’re youthful, they’ve time,” Kabuli stated. “However I don’t.”

Of the greater than 50,000 Afghan refugees who’d come to the U.S. as of early November, nearly half are under 18. Some, like Kabuli, are struggling to select up the place they left off as a result of they don’t have the correct paperwork. Many are navigating a brand new faculty system with totally different norms and practices, and discovering it tough to regulate.

Monitoring Down Transcripts

Some faculty districts are taking steps to assist Afghan refugee college students resume their training with out having to start out anew. San Juan Unified College District in Sacramento County, California, serves greater than 2,000 college students who converse Dari or Pashto, Afghanistan’s two major languages. Its refugee specialists have been speaking with households in Afghanistan and asking them to carry their transcripts.

However for college students who already got here with out their transcripts, the specialists’ palms are tied.

Cristina Burkhart, San Juan’s refugee program specialist, stated she’s labored with one scholar who must be a senior in highschool however has no transcripts.

“As a result of he’s an evacuee, he can’t get them,” Burkhart stated. “The Taliban has taken over, and there’s no means for him to get his transcripts from his faculty.”

Many female students destroyed their transcripts because the Taliban superior, afraid that the militants would goal them as threats to the brand new regime. Days after the Taliban took over Kabul, the co-founder of an Afghan all-girls boarding faculty set fire to all of her students’ records ― “to not erase them,” she wrote on Twitter, “however to guard them and their households.”

California, which has acquired the most important variety of Afghan refugees at 4,719 as of Dec. 21, handed a invoice in 2018 to make it simpler for migratory college students to graduate with partial credit score. Nevertheless, the invoice applies solely to highschool college students who’ve already acquired two years of education in the USA ― so even when Kabuli lived in California, it wouldn’t work for him.

Challenges In College

Cultural variations within the U.S. academic system, resembling totally different grading requirements and formal parent-teacher conferences, imply Afghan refugee dad and mom and college students alike should relearn how faculty works.

“We’ve had conditions the place dad and mom are informed ‘You have to go converse to the counselor, the counselor want to converse to you,’ and immediately, the counselor has a damaging connotation,” Burkhart stated. “‘Counselors are for loopy folks.’ That’s the notion I’ve gotten from folks from Afghanistan. They don’t perceive that the counselor is for lecturers.”

San Juan’s specialists stated one of many largest variations is attendance. In Afghanistan, college students are taught to be on time or be absent. The specialists stated they needed to train some Afghan households that being tardy is best than lacking a complete day.

“Primary data that… we take with no consideration, pondering that everyone is aware of this — they don’t know that,” Burkhart stated.

All the things from the right way to use a locker or a scholar ID to getting meals in a cafeteria is new to many Afghan refugee college students, stated Sayed Mansoor, an Afghan and college group refugee specialist at San Juan Unified College District.

“Sadly, in Afghanistan, residing requirements are to not the purpose we see right here. College students will not be used to nearly all of these requirements,” stated Mansoor, who labored with the U.S. Embassy and arrived in America in 2015.

It’s usually simpler for college students who go to high school with different Afghans. Lailuma Social, who teaches English to Afghan college students at Prince George Group Faculty, stated many college students are merely lonely. Social, who left Afghanistan in 2019, stated a trainer at her youngster’s faculty requested her to assist with an Afghan scholar who was crying someday.

“I requested him, what occurred?” Social stated. “He stated, ‘That is my second day. First day, I noticed somebody from Afghanistan, I talked to him. However at present he’s not right here. I’m simply misplaced.’”

Offering Help

Educators educated about working with Afghan refugees say that hiring individuals who know the tradition and converse the language is a very powerful means to offer assist for Afghan refugee college students.

“I’ve had faculties which have referred to as and stated, ‘Properly, these dad and mom are refusing providers for the scholars,’” Burkhart stated.

However once they discuss to Mansoor, the refugee specialist, it turns round.

“They’re glad, they’re grateful that they’re giving them the providers, it’s fully totally different,” Burkhart stated. “Having any individual who understands the tradition, understands the language — he is aware of precisely the right way to handle the issues and make it optimistic, not damaging.”

Social stated she tries to incorporate the fundamentals of surviving in America ― such because the distinction between a Social Safety quantity and a phone quantity ― in her English courses, which was primarily for adults however now embrace highschool college students.

At San Juan’s refugee program, Mansoor as soon as walked Afghan college students to high school as a result of they have been afraid of site visitors lights. This system tries to offer different providers, like emotional and social assist for college students and cultural instruction for academics.

“We train one household, and that household tells one other household, and now it’s spreading,” Burkhart stated. “They’re constructing capability amongst themselves.”

Kabuli’s household stated that authorities assist and advocacy teams just like the Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Heart have been useful, however the authorities assist is dwindling. Kabuli didn’t know what he’d do if he couldn’t discover a job. The hire of their Maryland condominium is $1,500 a month.

He utilized to each job he may discover. He spent months ready to listen to again from any of them ― typically after reapplying a number of occasions ― till lastly getting a job earlier this week. Kabuli stated it’s laborious work, but it surely’s higher than being caught at dwelling.

Kabuli is pursuing a highschool equivalency program by way of Prince George Group Faculty, however the courses are solely as soon as every week.

“I wished to check in a greater means, and research in the usual of the USA, however I couldn’t,” he stated.

Generally, he goals of Afghanistan.

“I’ve dreamed that I am going again,” he stated. “It’s so scary.”


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