The Smartest Girl in all of Afghanistan

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 13:36 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

" 10327-F-BH761-090 " Photo by: Ashley N. Avecilla BALKH, Afghanistan — During Afghanistan’s university entrance exams last month, a girl named Shohreh Ghaderi scored the highest of anyone in the country.

She beat over 225,000 other test-takers. Considering Afghanistan’s history of repressing women’s education, Ghaderi’s feat is challenging the status quo of families not sending their daughters on to higher education.

The university entrance exams in Afghanistan, known as the Kankor, are the Afghan equivalent of the American SATs, but far more imperative for Afghani students. Only about thirty-percent of the students that take the Kankor will be accepted to a public institution of higher education, according to Outlook Afghanistan.

Those who do not qualify have the option of attending one of the few private universities, but most students are too poor to afford it. Shohreh Ghaderi commented on the situation of her fellow test-takers to BBC News saying “Many students who sat for the exam had no security where they live. They don’t have proper books or teachers or access to computer. They have nothing.”

Ghaderi, however, will be one of the fortunate ones that will be going on to university. On taking the exam she said to BBC News, “There were 160 multiple choice questions. I only made three mistakes. I remember I was doubtful of one question. It asked what the chemical formula was for phosphoric acid. It was a very easy question, but I don’t know if I chose the right answer.” Despite those three mistakes, she managed to earn the highest score in the country.

Because of her high score she stands out, but what makes her achievement all the more noteworthy is that she is a girl. Traditionally, Afghan girls do not go on to university, instead opting for a domestic life, but that is not the case for her family. She credits her education to her family saying, “My dad used to help me with my questions. I do not believe any of this has to do with luck. I was brought up in an academic family where everyone cares about education.”

When it comes to how she achieved the highest scores in the country she says to BBC News that there was neither a “special technique” in how she studied nor any unique talent, but it was how hard she studied that mattered. She says, “Everything is possible if you have strong will. You have to have a goal in life and believe that nothing can stop you from achieving it.”

Ghaderi credits peace and security to bettering education for other girls. She tells BBC News that violence in certain areas is why girls are not going to school saying, “Some people won’t let their daughters study because of the lack of security.” She continues to say, “If everywhere was safe then there would be no excuse for stopping their daughters from studying and it would become an outdated tradition.”

With Ghaderi’s impressive score, she will be attending Kabul University. She intends on studying medicine. When she visited a class of other girls prior to their university exams, she left them with this encouraging message, “I hope I can be an inspiration to you all and that you all will be successful in the university entrance exam and then you will become and inspiration for our community.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Afghan School Girls Poisoned by Militants

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:25 PM EDT, 26 April 2010

Afghan School GirlsKUNDUZ PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Afghan women have been subjected to increasing levels of violence since 2002. The war-torn region is subject not only to external forces as America and its allies attempt to fortify the borders against Taliban insurgents, but to the internal pressures of a populace held hostage by a small group of extremist who use violence and death to enforce their version of Islam.

Today's incident in which 13 school girls became sick after inhaling a poisonous gas which leaked into their school is the latest in an effort by militant groups to dissuade girls and women from pursuing education. Afghan has a dismal 13% literacy rate among women, and many of the girls schools have been burned down or shuttered.

In 2006 when the Taliban began to enforce its version of Sharia law, 198 girls schools were burned down and 20 teachers were killed in Taliban attacks that year according to Zuhur Afghan, a spokesman for the education ministry.

The government has accused fighters opposed to female education of being behind the attack.The Sunday, 25 April incident which is the third in Kunduz province brings to 80 the number of school girls reporting symptoms such as headaches, vomiting and shivering after suspected poisoning.

In April of this year 47 girls from a different school had reported feeling dizzy and nauseous, while 23 girls said they felt unwell under similar circumstances.  On June 9, 2010, CNN Wire Staff reported the latest attack in which 16 school girls were sickened by the poisonous gas.