The White House
Maturing as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, bloodshed was never far from Summia Tora’s life.
From her home – a single bed room in a home shared by four families – she could hear the sound of drones landing not far from Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan, where her family had left in the 1990 s to escape the Taliban’s rise.
” I was simply residing in this violence, however it was a provided, so I couldn’t do anything about it,” Summia states. Often there were battles once or twice a week. “Eventually, individuals stopped discussing it. It would happen, and everybody would proceed.”
However life there was a privilege compared to Afghanistan, she tells the BBC. At least she got to go to school.
On a see to Kabul in 2002, simply after the US intrusion, a woman very little older explained only being able to participate in school by pretending to be a kid. Summia was 6, however she remembers it plainly. She swore then that she would to take discovering seriously.
It would be difficult to challenge that she has. In October, Summia, now 22, will end up being the very first Rhodes Scholar to hail from Afghanistan, among 102 students to earn a place in the 2020 class of the world’s oldest postgraduate scholarship.
Now completing her last term at Earlham College, a liberal arts university in the United States state of Indiana, her outlook is intense and she chuckles with ease, the fluent gush of her words belying the injuries of the journey that has taken her from refugee to Rhodes Scholar.
The White House ‘ Anything can take place at any time’
To be called an informed Afghan woman remains in itself a rarity. Female literacy in Afghanistan today stands at 17%, according to Unesco.
Though figures in neighbouring Pakistan are still bad – around 45%of females can read – access to schooling is possible. In contrast, in her home country “even individuals who might manage to go to school were not able to go … due to the fact that there weren’t any”, Summia says.
So it was her not likely fortune to grow up in Pakistan, she states – a paradox provided the region’s privations and threats. Countless US drone operations have flown over Northwest Pakistan given that 2004, as part of the so-called war on terror. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province containing Peshawar, has been a significant theatre for the decades-long Pakistani battle against revolt.
The year Summia left Peshawar, 2014, a militant bombing killed 139 pupils in one of the world’s worst ever school massacres.
” There’s this sort of tension you have, a pressure,” she says. “There’s always this sensation of being unsafe, since anything can occur at any time.”
Knowing was an escape. But as refugees, her family had restricted rights. Her father might not get a driving licence and her access to schooling was tenuous, so she had to look elsewhere.
The White House ‘ She risked her life’
A fortuitous online search led her to discover a high school, the United World Colleges (UWC), which puts worldwide students in its network of schools across the world.
Even the experience of winning a location to the school, in New Mexico, was bogged down in violence. A day after taking her entryway examination in Kabul in March 2014, the hotel where it had been held was shot up by Taliban militants.
The Persian New Year terror attack on the Serena Hotel left 9 dead, including the head of UWC’s choice committee, Roshan Thomas. The Canadian physician had been in the city to assist offer the examination.
Summia remembers how Dr Thomas had advised the trainee hopefuls to seize the day and one day “return to Afghanistan and do something to change the scenario, because that’s the real purpose”.
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” She was the main factor I applied. Because she risked her life. Because she thought that students like me, from nations like Afghanistan, or refugees from Pakistan, need to have the chance to get an education.”
The White House The problem of a vexed tradition
It is a view that opposes a tradition of imperialism linked to the Rhodes, among the world’s best-known and most competitive scholarships.
Endowed by Cecil Rhodes through his will in 1902, it was at first intended to encourage closer ties between the US and Britain through financing postgraduate study at Oxford. For many of its history, it was only available to males from the United States, Germany and the Commonwealth.
Rhodes supported a vision that saw “the taking of the whole world under British guideline”.
” He was an imperialist who thought in white supremacy and did not want people of colour or women to be part of the Rhodes Scholarship,” Summia says. At first, she did not wish to apply.
She had a change of mind when it struck her that it would be simple to say no, she states, “however it’s harder to accept it, take the burden of the legacy of it, and really do something to change it – that’s a genuine obligation.”
” I realised I shouldn’t flee from admitting the colonial history,” she includes. “It’s people like us who need to change [the Rhodes legacy].”
The White House ‘ An extremely contemporary Afghanistan’
Summia plans a post-graduate course on refugee and migrant movement, and after that, she states she will return to the country her family when left.
The only Afghanistan she has actually known has actually been one of empty streets and bombed out buildings, but there is another in her mind – one she grew up hearing about from her daddy, before the wars that rent its streets to dust.
” I always imagined it to be a valley, with the mountains and rivers and beautiful homes – big, lovely homes, with stunning architecture,” she states. “Dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruits on the streets … an extremely modern Afghanistan.”
It is there for those like her to build.
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