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The Circus comes to Afghanistan

 

A majestic art form has rolled into Afghanistan: the circus.

According to the aid group Oxfam, more than half of Afghanistan’s 12 million youth still do not attend school. Now is an integral time to invest in educating Afghanistan’s children and innovative ideas like a circus-themed school could be just what they need.

David Mason, 42, moved to Kabul and founded the Mobile Mini Circus for Children in June 2002, a couple of months after the fall of the Taliban. “The circus makes children enjoy life,” said Mason. “It shocks them, moves them and makes them see how life can be.

"When a 7-year-old boy is on stage, and 2,000 people are clapping for him, it gives him what war and misery cannot take away from him.”

More than 100 children mix traditional schooling with art and acrobats at the school, which is colorful in nature to bring them out of the poverty and violence that they are accustomed to outside of the school.

 

Habeda, an 11-year-old girl, walks three miles from her home with her brother to attend this school to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer. "I am learning music. I went to Germany, Denmark and Japan. I sang Afghan and Japanese songs there and everybody was clapping for me. I was very happy," she said. "I want to show to the world the real face of Afghanistan. We have songs, we have theater, we have circus and we have Afghan national dance."

Mohammed Ansar, 8, is learning acrobatics, acting and drawing. Mohammed has gone to Japan to perform what he has learned in theater and acrobatics to other children. “There were 5,000 children looking at me,” he said. “I was surprised and happy. I want to go to as many countries as I can and show them what I have learned.

"My father always tells me to learn more and more and be a good student of your school. I want to participate in circus and make other children happy by doing acrobatic activities and showing them good theater."

In addition to traveling to different countries, the school’s teachers and students perform circus shows and educational theater around Afghanistan to teach Afghan children about land-mine awareness, malaria prevention and the importance of brushing ones’ teeth. There are 17 Afghan teachers who teach subjects like math, English, and religion as well as theater, painting and circus tricks. There are about 120 permanent students, ranging from 4 to 13-years-old, but that number increases to 350 when the state schools close for the winter holiday.

But the best part of this combination school is that it is free. The school survives on money raised from its performances and donations from 15 countries.

Mason is not discouraged by the challenges ahead for Afghanistan’s health and education sectors. "For us, medicine is jumping and laughter, and education is balancing.”

Click HERE learn more about the Mobile Mini Circus for Children

Click HERE to listen to an NPR radio story on the circus

 

 

   

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