Editor’s Note: In this essay, Rahatgul Takoor, a participant in the Pax Populi Tutoring Services program speaks about his experiences working with a tutor in London, as well as conditions in his country. Our tutors come from all around the world, but as far away as they may be from each other, geographically, from Pax Populi’s perspective, they are all part of one great and beautiful human family brought closer through valuable educational exchanges.
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Working through the Pax Populi Tutoring Services (PTS) program I formed a strong working relationship with my tutor, an Englishwoman named Sian Eliot. Pax Populi is a partner with “Afghans for Progressive Thinking” (APT), and an Afghan organization with which I am affiliated, and through this collaboration I began working with Sian, a kind and honest person, who was chosen as a tutor for me. I was interested in learning English through forming connections with native speakers.
Every tutor has their own style and approach to teaching. I have enjoyed learning English with Sian. Here is our approach: Every week, I read an article or listen to a talk and then I give a presentation on the main themes. We then discuss how the ideas relate to our own lives, in Afghanistan and the UK. In this brief essay I will provide a short summary of one of these sessions with Sian, explain the reasons that I study English, and mention some of the benefits I have experienced through Pax Populi Tutoring Services.
For one of our sessions, I watched a TED Talk by Richard St. John. The title of the talk is “Eight Secrets of Success” (see http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html). St. John explains that a girl in a bus asked him about what really leads to success. He gave his TED talk after interviewing more than 500 people on their views on what really leads to success. From all of these views and opinions, he picked out the eight most common elements given by the interviewees. They were: first ‘passion’; second ‘work’; third ‘doing good’; the fourth is ‘focusing on one thing and practicing to reach success’; fifth is to ‘push yourself physically and mentally’; sixth, is ‘to serve others’; the seventh thing is ‘to have ideas’; and the eighth is ‘to persist.’ According to one of the interviewees, persistence is found in having the initiative to sustain one’s effort in reaching for success.
According to this talk, all of the opinions expressed were equally important as everyone has their own way of achieving success. In my personal life, I especially like the ideas of hard work and persistence. As an example, I would like to consider my educational life. In my family, when I began studying in school, there were not any educational supporters to help me to learn and practice the school subjects. My father would only insist and encourage me to study. My parents’ encouragement always made me work hard in my studies, however, it was me who worked hard and persisted to reach to the point I wanted. After graduation from high school in 2009, I was able to study in university. Now, I am a senior in the English Language and Literature department in Kabul University. As a freshman, I faced lots of problems with my studies: I could hardly speak, write or even read any words of English. Many students, who found the lessons difficult, would take a gap year to try and prepare for the upcoming lessons. But, I did not take that option and I did not quit. I worked hard and persisted in my studies.
Afghan people need all kinds of help, including material and educational assistance. They have undergone many troubles in the last three decades of war. Before the presidency of Hamid Karzai and the intervention of the international community, there was a lot of hatred among different Afghan groups and all Afghans were suffering under the oppression of a foreign and native based insurgency. Afghans were being pushed and brainwashed to destroy their own country and fight against each other, and in the process we were being kept from gaining knowledge.
In the present time, we are more hopeful that our country will have a good, successful and promising future. We are experiencing improvements to many aspects of the country. In the past, almost no one, neither boys nor girls, could attend school. Nowadays, for every one or two villages in every district, there are schools both for boys and girls. The economy of our country has improved to some extent, but still is not satisfactory. Security is maintained in most areas of the country. As I see it, the most important things for the improvement of our country are as follows: first is the reintegration (or unification) of the people; second is ending the interference of neighboring countries in the internal affairs of Afghanistan; third is maintaining security throughout the country.
Pax Populi’s Tutoring Service benefits many Afghan youths, especially school and university students. The most striking effect is that it gives Afghan students an opportunity to become familiar with people from different cultures. Both, tutor and tutee are mutually benefitted by presenting and sharing valuable information about their cultures. Pax Populi helps Afghans, especially students, gain awareness of the lives and conditions of residents in developed countries. We can take lessons from other multicultural countries, in which people from different ethnicities maintain peace and unity with each other. Similarly, the tutors can gain more awareness of the wider context of life in Afghanistan and gain a deeper understanding of related issues affecting our country. An additional benefit of the PaxPopuli Tutoring Program is that it can help Afghans to develop better study habits, which can contribute to our educational advancement generally.
I have been fortunate to participate in this program and learn about Europe perspectives on life and society while improving my English language skills. Both from a social and professional level, these experiences will be of benefit to me in the years ahead.