Fri Jan 20 2012
Afghan schoolgirl Roya Shams, 17, spends the day at Ottawa's Ashbury College doing placement tests. She starts classes on Jan. 27.PAUL WATSON/TORONTO STAR
I was excited to see girls my own age. I told them that I had just arrived from Kandahar, and they told me that they were from Humberside Collegiate. I said that I am in Canada to study in Grade 10 and that hoped to do my best. We had just a little time together and after that I was thinking that I would like to meet other Canadian girls.
I am writing this on the train. I am going to Ottawa, where I will go to Ashbury College. This is first time that I have been on a train and this is more comfortable for me than a plane. I can see snow for the first time. I see the trees without leaves, icicles and houses that are not surrounded by walls, the way they are in my country now.
Later on my first day in Canada I visited the University of Toronto. I was so tired, but when I saw a busy street with many students running to their classes, I saw my own future. I asked about the law school. I would like to study law and serve my country and our needy people.
I didn’t meet any law students but two days later I went to Parkdale Collegiate and met seven girls in Grade 12. Kathi Silke, the head of the guidance department, arranged the meeting. We pulled the chairs in a circle so we could talk. I just told them about my life and my father, who was killed by the Taliban. My father tried all the time to make sure that his daughters had an education. When people asked him how many sons he had, he told them nine, even though there are four boys and five girls in our family. He never thought of us as daughters who would not have the same opportunity as boys.
I told them I love strong people and if you have never seen a hard day you will never see a good day. One girl named Caroline Wojtyla asked me how other families treat their daughters. I told them that some families don’t let their daughters go to school because it is too dangerous.
I asked them what they want to study. One girl said that she wanted to be the first in her family to graduate from university. Another girl whose family was from Tibet said she wanted to go medical school. She said, “I don’t know if I can make it.” I said, “Never say you can’t make it happen. I never thought I could be here with you guys, but here I am and my dreams are coming true.”
Another girl asked about my mother. She said I didn’t say much about her. I said that my mother is very kind and she wanted us to be hard-working, and that she was married at 13.
The last question they asked was what does my name mean. I said that my name means dream. My father named me and so I am the dream of my father.
A few hours have passed and I have seen my school. I saw my schedule and it seems hard. Mr. Matthews, the headmaster, told me not to worry, that they would not push me too hard to start. I said I want to study hard and do my best. I got my uniform, too. I chose a skirt because I heard that most of the girls wear skirts and it is the best choice for me. I will wear tights to cover my knees.
I am feeling lonely because I became used to my new friends in Toronto.
Next week, I begin classes. But it will be exciting for me to meet new classmates and start my new life.
Written with help from Leslie Scrivener
How you can help
We invite you to join the growing community supporting Afghan schoolgirl Roya Shams' journey to fight for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan as a politician.
Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a registered charity, is handling tax-deductible donations, which can be made online with a major credit card by clicking The Roya Fund link at www.thestar.com.
The charity will also accept cheques, written to CW4WAfghan and specifying on the memo line that the donation is for The Roya Fund.
The mailing adress is: Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, PO Box 86016, Marda Loop, Calgary, AB T2T 6B7