Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marefat School

The Farsi word marefat is a difficult one to translate to English. There is not a single word that conveys all of its subtle nuances. It is a noun, a quality that one can possess. If an individual is described as having much marefat, he or she can be best characterized as being extremely knowledgeable, considerate, aware, even ethical. A person with marefat is wise and has a capacity for understanding that is beyond that of the average person. Knowing this, it is appropriate then that Marefat is the name of a school in Afghanistan that teaches classes such as Humanism in the Renaissance.

It is in the rural outskirts of Kabul, in an area populated mostly by Hazaras, a Shiite ethnic minority, where Aziz Royesh decided to build his school. Spending most of his youth fighting during the Soviet occupation of his country, this 39 year-old Afghan man made it his mission to show the youth of Afghanistan, some of whom remember nothing but civil unrest, a different way.

The Hazaras are a people which have a long history of persecution in Afghanistan, even during times of peace. But it is in a small, previously bombed-out building, donated and renovated by the goodwill of many, where they are now learning notions that many of them have not actually witnessed in their lifetimes. Concepts like democracy, civil disobedience, and basic human rights, of which many of them, and their parents, and their parents before them have been deprived.

It is arguable that these children have been training in the art of marefat for their entire lives, striving to understand the unstable and often unkind world around them. Through their participation in Being We the People, it will be captivating to see how, armed with a camera, they will portray the world around them--one that is vastly different from, and in some ways, surprisingly similar to that of their counterparts in urban Philadelphia.

For more information, visit http://beingwethepeople.shutterfly.com and read more about Aziz Royesh and Marefat School in Trudy Rubin's column here.

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