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Teacher forms charity to bring lessons to refugees

A British teacher has set up a charitable trust to bring education to thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and support government schools in Afghanistan.

Dr Mo Afzal, director of science research at King's School, Canterbury, and a research fellow at University College London, has got the backing of Professor Sir Harry Kroto, the chemistry Nobel prize winner, Imran Khan, the Pakistan politician and ex-cricketer, and Yusuf Islam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools UK.

Dr Azfal, who visited the area in late February, said 50,000 people had left Kabul for Peshawar and Quetta in Pakistan when the bombing started, but many had been in exile much longer. "They all want to go back. But there is still the fear of the situation not being settled in Afghanistan. Most have nothing to go back to. Their homes have been flattened."

Dr Afzal was struck by the thirst for education and hopes initially to set up two schools for 500 girls in Quetta and two in Peshawar.

"Many people I saw had been living in mud huts for up to five years and every person we spoke to wanted their children to be educated."

Teachers are taking classes in makeshift mud hut schools but are paid so little - about pound;35 a month - that they have to moonlight. The trust aims to raise money to use mudbrick school buildings. It will pay for school fees and allowances for teachers and parents.

Parents can just afford to send their eldest sons to school. It is common to see seven or eight-year-olds scavenging for cans among the rubbish to sell to scrap merchants. Girls earn small amounts by knitting, sewing and cleaning.

Dr Afzal hopes UK teacher- training colleges will persuade students to spend three months in Pakistan helping to train Afghan teachers.

A short drive from Quetta at the border town of Chaman, 60,000 refugees live in tents on a diet of beans and rice. There is no education. The Pakistani government plans to move them back into Afghanistan in three months so their best hope lies in the drive to rebuild education at home.

Contact the Afghan Educational Trust by email: m.afzal@ucl.ac.uk l Visit the teaching resources at www.tes.co.ukafghanistan to find materials on:

* Life in Afghan schools - downloadable photo pack

* Learning in Afghanistan - case studies from classrooms in Kabul

* Landmines - the perils of going back to school

* In the fundraising section, you'll find downloadable sponsorship sheets and donation forms, details of how to contact your nearest UNICEF fundraiser, and suggestions for money-raising efforts.

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