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Northbridge students walk a mile in Afghan slippers - or headscarves

Andrea Bernoth
Andrea Bernoth (2 posts) Secondary EAL Teacher, EAL Coordinator View Profile

This semester, Ms Andrea and Mr Will’s Grade 6 English classes at Northbridge International School Cambodia are reading a novel called The Breadwinner. This story is about an 11 year old girl living in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the Taliban era of the 1990s, when extreme restrictions were placed on women, including banning school for all girls.

Northbridge International School Cambodia - English

By Ms Andrea Bernoth, Mr William Lynch and Grade 6 English classes

 

The first activity of the unit was to research and give presentations on aspects of life in Afghanistan. Students were asked to reflect on what they thought was the most interesting thing they learned, and whether or not they identified any similarities between Afghanistan and Cambodia. 

Many students commented on the inequality and the poor treatment of women:

Afghanistan is ranked the worst country in the world to be born a girl Miyuki
The most interesting thing I learned in Afghanistan was how women weren’t allowed to go outside without men and how men had to do all the shopping, leaving women behind Ethan
I learned that Afghanistan has a very strict policy when it comes to girls going outside or doing daily activities. In The Breadwinner, I learned about how girls in Afghanistan must wear chadors and burqas just to take a step outside Rajananta
Northbridge International School Cambodia - English

A number of students also recognised commonalities between the Taliban regime and Cambodia’s history with the Khmer Rouge:

One way that I think Cambodians and Afghans are similar is Cambodia and Afghanistan have both had civil wars Fulong
We both had some sort of brutal history, and they both came because of the Cold War Billy
There are still many unearthed mines in Cambodia and Afghanistan. Cambodians in certain regions and Afghanis still have to be careful not to step on any mines Rajananta

Students also compared daily life between the two countries:

One way Cambodian and Afghans are similar is that there are people selling things in the market to find money and to feed their families Kanika
Both of our countries are very hot during the summer Sopharoth
Northbridge International School Cambodia - English

During one lesson last week, students brought in scarves or kramas from home, which they wore during class in a style similar to the hijab to develop a sense of empathy for Afghan girls. Some students even kept wearing them after English class as well. Wearing a headscarf in the warm Cambodian climate was a challenge, even more so for Mr Will’s class, where the air conditioning was not working that lesson! 

The scarf was comfortable but it was hard trying to wear it all day and to keep on fixing it when it broke. It was also nerve wracking because everybody would stare at you Alanna
It felt weird because it was very hot inside and itchy and I don't know how people in Afghanistan wear it for the whole day but for me I didn't like wearing it because it was a bit uncomfortable Kaylee
I think wearing a headscarf isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if it's for the reason why Afghans wear them then I think quite unfair considering men do not have to do so. Being forced to wear a headscarf in 30 degree weather is just cruel and considering Afghan women have to wear it so that men don't have to see their faces is just unbelievable. But wearing a headscarf at your own will isn't a bad thing, and I don't have anything against it if you did it on your own without being forced to Kanhchana
It felt like I was safe and i wouldn't see anyone looking at me or judging me if i'm covered up Elee
Being honest but I loved it because sometimes when you are trying to hide from someone you can just cover your face pretty easily, and also it blocks you from the sun most of the time and the best thing is that when there is bad quality air you can use it to cover your nose Seang

The Breadwinner is also listed as part of the Nord Anglia Global Campus library this year, so when we have finished reading the book, students will have the opportunity to share their ideas and understandings with their peers from across the world.

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