Lights Off, Study On: AHS Students’ Experiences With Education in Other Countries

Immigrant students of AHS share their struggle to learn in their native countries

Aleesha Kashif

Staff Writer

    Since the age of five, almost every American High student could be found sitting in an American public school classroom Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 3:00pm, with the exception of a select few.

    From Central Asia to the coasts of Central America, students from every corner of world have emigrated to America. in hope for a better future. They have happily sacrificed their homes, culture, and previous lives in hope for a change in the education system.

    “Everything is really different here compared to the countries I [have] been [to] before,” an immigrant student from Afghanistan, Baktash Begzad (12) said. “I [have] been in many countries before, but I [am] more grateful [that] I’m here now. I like the quality of education here—it is really good and all [the] teachers are nice.”

   Some heavy rain or a particularly windy day is enough to convince any American student or staff member that school conditions could be unsafe. Unfortunately, everyday Myanmar students await some sort of storm and wish they had the squeaky portables that we have to protect them from it.
    “The high school I went to was the same building [that] my parents [went to] when they were young,” an immigrant student from Myanmar, Thet Zaw (11) said. “One of the worst memories I had was [when] there was a hole in the roof [of the classroom building] and I was sitting right underneath it, so all my books and clothes got wet.”

   Some countries have no funding to support the basic necessities of a classroom, such as light and heat, let alone science equipment or a library.
    “We didn’t have any light bulbs equipped in the classroom,” Zaw said. “So some students brought their own mini lamps and for those students who cannot afford them had to just write in darkness.”

   Unfortunately most of the countries these kids emigrated from are under distress: developing their governments, creating education systems, or actively engaging in a war. Budget cuts from government-funded items like textbooks refrain the kids from having proper materials to learn, thus, many schools shift the focus of learning onto other things.

    Many foreign education systems enforce rules standards based on cleanliness, proper uniform, or separation of male from female students rather than contributing school time to actual curriculum.

    “Every week they check you, [and] if [you’re] not clean, they will punish you,” Begzad said. “They cut your hair, too—that’s the worst thing they do.”

    Unfortunately hair cutting is a requirement, not a punishment. In many countries, the punishment goes far beyond detention; teachers have the right to physically punish children whenever they feel that punishment is needed with no limits to the extent of disciplinary action.

    “I remember one day I was just talking with my friend in the class,” Begzad recalled. “My math teacher hit me [with a] stick so bad [that] my palm became black.”
    These kids and millions of others have endured much worse, from war environments to gun violence, they have seen it all. Unlike American schools, they did not have opportunities to receive any help from staff members or guidance counselors, which led many kids astray to damage the system further.

    “[The] government [did] not even care about school rules,” Begzada said. “A lot of students are dealing with gang[s] and they bring weapons in[to] the class. Some students are really scared to come to school everyday.”

    Although America’s education system can improve as well, it can also be much worse. These students believe themselves to be lucky for being provided with the basic necessities we take for granted everyday.

    “I have been in America for two years now and I feel like I’ve more learned more than I [have] ever learned in my old schools,” Zepeda said. “I am very lucky to learn in America, I love the teachers and the way they teach.”

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