The Dunyat Teacher

by Esmat

This time of the year, the schools would start. I would have a panic-attack of some sort because I would spend the next nine months or so dealing with few ridiculous classes that I had no interest in.

This particular time of the year, is very precious to me, I have had very beautiful moments as well as some very horrible first day experiences at schools. I am not going to hide that I have often been bullied at school, I have written about that here. But bullying is not really the biggest problem I had at school.

The biggest problem was I think that the learning environment was set in a way that no one felt okay to ask questions.

I remember, this Dunyat (religious studies) class where the teacher would give half an hour lecture that contradicted his previous lecture and at the end would ask, “Any questions?” You would see how everyone was so scared of asking any questions because the teacher always wanted his point to be proven right.

Over the years since my early schooling till I graduated, I had seen almost all kinds of Dunyat teachers. Some were of those moderate religious scholars who would wear dark suits that was always immaculately clean, with shiny black shoes (which I always wondered how could they keep clean in Kabul’s muddy streets); to those extremist kinds that would wear Peran-Tomban with sandals and had very bad grooming habits. As far as I can remember, all of them were very strict and none of them had any tolerance for students asking serious questions about religion. There were so many times I wanted to ask questions but I clearly knew the response would be a hard slap on my face.

In high school – there was this one Dunyat teacher that I always despised for his narrow-minded views. See, Dunyat was a very sensitive subject in a lot of ways, even the teacher himself was sometimes confused but to him the fact that someone would question his ideas was to him like questioning the entire religion. At the end of almost all of his lectures, he liked bragging that he had a degree in theology from Kabul University and that yes, government should increase his pay, to respect him more.

This very teacher always picked on me.  The fact that I was part of a minority made things easy for him, he would always question me like I was a religious scholar or an official spokesperson of my  minority. Later when he would leave the class, I had another barrage of questions thrown at me by my classmates. The teacher always fueled this kind of discriminatory conversations. There were times that I found it hard to be in class, I would leave and then come back when there was another teacher. But sometimes I could not escape since the next period was Tafseer (Quran’ studies) and my classmates would begin again by throwing questions.

I think more than opening the minds of students to knowledge, the teachers are literally force feeding students with a lot of knowledge which one cannot question because it’s taboo to them.

My response to my Dunyat teachers then and now is  – if humans didn’t question things, we wouldn’t be here today, we would probably still be living inside caves.