This photo obtained from the Facebook account of Afghan professor Yahya Erfan shows Afghan student Jahantab Ahmadi sitting on the ground as her baby lays on her lap. Picture: AFP/Yahya Erfan
This photo obtained from the Facebook account of Afghan professor Yahya Erfan shows Afghan student Jahantab Ahmadi sitting on the ground as her baby lays on her lap. Picture: AFP/Yahya Erfan

One photo shows the importance of education in the world

SITTING on the ground, a young woman focuses on completing her university entrance exam, which she hopes will help her fulfil her dreams.

But this is an image with a difference - as the young woman works on her paper, she is cradling her sick child in her lap.

The powerful photo, taken by a professor at Nasir Khusraw private university in central Afghanistan, has gone viral after striking a chord in a country where most women are illiterate and treated as second-class citizens.

The hopeful student is Afghan farmer Jahantab Ahmadi, a mother of three.

Afghan student Jahantab Ahmadi takes an entrance exam as her baby lies in her lap at Nasir Khusraw private university, in the central city of Nili. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ Yahya Erfan
Afghan student Jahantab Ahmadi takes an entrance exam as her baby lies in her lap at Nasir Khusraw private university, in the central city of Nili. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ Yahya Erfan

The picture has sparked an outpouring of admiration and offers of financial help for Ahmadi and her family, who live in a remote farming village in Daikundi province.

"I don't want to be deprived of my studies," Ahmadi told AFP in Kabul.

"I want to work outside the house. I want to become a doctor, someone who serves women in my community or society."

The lengths Ahmadi went to in order to complete the exam are truly staggering - two hours on foot through mountains and nine hours in public transport on a bumpy road.

Jahantab Ahmadi, 25, holds her youngest child Khizran, the child she was cradling in an image that has gone viral. Picture: AFP
Jahantab Ahmadi, 25, holds her youngest child Khizran, the child she was cradling in an image that has gone viral. Picture: AFP

An online GoFundMe campaign launched by the Afghan Youth Association to help pay for her university fees has so far raised more than $14,000 - a fortune in a country where about 39 per cent of the population lives in poverty.

When she was interviewed by AFP, Ahmadi appeared a little bemused by the attention triggered by the photo of her cradling baby Khizran during the exam last month, which she only found out about later.

"My friends in the village told me 'you have been photographed'. I said 'how did I not know that I was being photographed and they said 'you were concentrating on the paper," she said, smiling shyly.

At the beginning of the test, which was held outdoors, Ahmadi sat at a desk with Khizran in her lap.

Afghan mother Jahantab Ahmadi holds her youngest child as her husband Musa Mohammadi looks on at a house in Kabul. Picture: AFP
Afghan mother Jahantab Ahmadi holds her youngest child as her husband Musa Mohammadi looks on at a house in Kabul. Picture: AFP

But the infant had an ear ache and would not stop crying. To keep her quiet and not disturb others, Ahmadi sat on the ground in the shade of another person - and kept writing.

"I had to concentrate on the baby and do the paper," she said.

After seeing the photo online, Afghan women's rights activist Zahra Yagana contacted Ahmadi and convinced her to come to Kabul to study.

The family is staying with Yagana while she helps Ahmadi get into a private university in the Afghan capital.

"If she had to study in Daikundi it would be difficult for her," Yagana told AFP.

Jahantab Ahmadi says she had to concentrate on her paper, even though her daughter was sick.
Jahantab Ahmadi says she had to concentrate on her paper, even though her daughter was sick.

"The standard of education is low. There is no student hostel in Daikundi and she would have to live in a rented house.

"We will give her a house (in Kabul). There are many friends who have promised to help her. We are trying to find a job for her husband and also raise money for her children to go to school."

For Ahmadi, this would be the fulfilment of her dreams.

"My life goal was to get admitted into university," said Ahmadi, who finished high school after she got married at the age of 18.

"But due to our poor economic situation and poverty I could not afford to study for three or four years."

Afghanistan's general literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world - just 36 per cent, according to official figures. It is much lower for women.

"I don't want to be left behind," she said.



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