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The Zabuli Education Center is the first school for girls in Deh’Subz, rural Afghanistan. Founder Razia Jan must juggle threats from the Taliban, interference from disapproving family members, and teenage angst, to keep the school running. Zabuli’s challenges reveal the difficulties facing modern Afghanistan, as it balances the uneasy tension between a deeply conservative culture and a burning desire for development. With unprecedented access What Tomorrow Brings traces the interconnected stories of the village elders, students, teachers, and parents from the school's foundation to its first graduation.

“I love being in school studying and laughing with my friends. When I’m here, I feel the most at peace. I finish my chores early in the morning and late at night. The rest of the time, I just want to be at school because I love it here”, gushes Pashtana. She is recently engaged and fearful her fiancé’s father will forbid her from coming to school. “I have no interest in marriage. All I want is to graduate. After that, If I die it’s OK.”

In 2015 alone, 213 girls’ schools were forced to close in Afghanistan, in the face of attacks from the Taliban. The shadow of terrorism hangs heavy over the Zabuli Education Center’s administration. Following a poison attack on the water at a school in Jowzjan Province, which affected 42 girls, the school has been on high alert. “Everyday we test the water. And everyday the rooms are checked for any kind of gas. Although it hasn’t happened we can’t put our guards down”, explains Razia. She has appealed to the village elders to help protect the school. “My only wish is that the school stays safe and that nobody destroys it. That’s all I want from the people of this village. Nothing else. I just want you to keep an eye on our school so that nobody harms it.”

Some of the elders are ecstatic with the success of the school. “In the past when we got a letter from the government we had to go door-to-door to find someone who could read it. Some mullahs could read it some mullahs couldn’t. Today, our young daughters can read in English. This is a proud moment!”, says Fazl. But the elders, and the traditional culture they represent, are also a source of difficulty.

Mayor Sahib has voiced support for the school, yet his daughter Rihala has not been at school for over a month. He has recently taken a second wife, and it has caused difficulties at home. Yet he denies any wrongdoing. “The other day I told her to go to school. She told me that she will go, so I don’t know why she isn’t going.” But Rihala protests, “My father won’t let me go. What can I do? He has an answer for everything.” After months of negotiating she is finally able to return to school, much to the delight of Raiza. “This girl had the guts to fight her family and after 6 months she was successful.”

What Tomorrow Brings is an inspirational tale of fighting for good in the face of overwhelming odds and life-threatening danger.


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