angelina-jolie-unhcr-k-mckinsey.jpgWith her many good deeds, Angelina Jolie is quietly becoming a modern-day Mother Teresa, particularly in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency.

18 months ago, she visited a settlement for refugees returning to Afghanistan, mostly from Pakistan. The families shared with her their concerns about a lack of educational facilities in the area.

Now, people are celebrating the new primary school for girls, opened after Angelina donated the necessary $75,000 to construct the campus.

Inaugurated on Thursday in time for the start of the school year next Monday, the school in eastern Afghanistan features eight classrooms, four administration buildings, a well and eight latrines, the school can accommodate up to 800 students in two shifts.

Laila, an outgoing 14-year-old whose family returned to Afghanistan from neighbouring Pakistan in 2008, is among those who will benefit from the new school. “I always had hopes and dreams of going to school,” said Laila, adding that “the hope to become a qualified teacher has revived in me.”

Iqbal Azizi, head of the provincial education department, said the Jolie gift was very important because it was ensuring a brighter future for many kids in Tangi who “otherwise would have been deprived of education in the absence of a primary school building.”

There are three settlements at Tangi, gathering some 7,800 people (1,300 families) who have returned from Pakistan over the past five years. Most are originally from Kunar province, but after years in exile they had lost social networks and support systems as well as property in their villages.

They are starting afresh with the help of UNHCR, other humanitarian agencies and the local authorities, who have provided basic needs like shelter, water and education facilities.

Meanwhile, Laila’s father, Ustad, who worked as a teacher in Pakistan, said the new school was an important step in the rebuilding of his country. “This is what we needed here.”

By Mohammed Nader Farhad in Tangi, Afghanistan, for the UNHCR

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