Just a little outside of Slemani, I am sat with a few families in a little farmhouse over a little hill. One person, in particular, takes my attention away from the setting sun and red coloured sky to much deeper levels of thinking about the state of education in our society – typical Sazan Mind, flying away.
The young man under observation, Rebaz*, holds a microphone and sings one of my favourite Kamal Muhammad songs, Shirine. He sings it better than the original artist. His harmonic voice then transits into the lyrics of Homer Dizayee’s songs before laughing as his cheeks become the colour of cotton candy. “I can’t say the lyrics”, he says with shyness. But, in the presence of his father, mother and siblings, we insist he continues. We all laugh. He does a shy grin, still pink cheeks and entertains us for another hour or so.
I am curious to know about this sweet young man. From his mother I learn Rebaz is 20. Handsome, shy, humble with an incredible singing voice only to entertain family gatherings on their little farm home. The story of Rebaz is that he has failed grade 12 for two consecutive years and is now repeating all the subjects once again for the third time, because of this one single subject that he just isn’t passing.
And here, my loyal reader, is our society’s biggest catastrophe. One single subject at school, your weakest, one that you just don’t have the passion, mind, motivation or understanding for takes three years of your life just like that. He is determined to continue his higher education, but there is no way of progressing forward without passing that one subject. This year is his last chance.
I wonder if hidden under this smile are compressed forms of anxiety, and depression. I wonder if the joy he gives to his family is actually felt within. I wonder, what if Rebaz was interviewed for university. What if he only studied his strong areas, what if he was graded throughout the entire year not just one exam that determines his future… I wonder how Rebaz feels every time he sits in a silent room looking at questions that, in his point of view, will determine the turn of his life.
I wonder how it feels to be 20, young, handsome, so sweet and kind, humble so well mannered yet have no access to an income, or a part time job. I wonder what impact this will have on his life, what wounds it will leave behind…
The little things that can be addressed can change the lives of our youth in so many ways, let’s start with education.
My Nest in Kurdistan