After working on "Skateistan, Afghanistan's first skate school, Jacob Simkin has taken on another noteworthy project called "Schools on the Moon." Through this new undertaking, the photographer and teacher aims to give Afghan children a chance to obtain decent education. Read more about our LomoAmigo, his new project, and the role of photography and Lomography in this new venture after the jump!
Name: Jacob Simkin
1. As an insider, what are some of the most important things for us to understand about the atmosphere, the children, and why the equipment and support is necessary and conducive for these students to learn?
The project title “Schools on the Moon” alludes to the terrain of the area which is similar to that of the moon as well as the fact that the schools are a source of inspiration, like the satellite. Just as we view the moon from the comfort of our own home, so too are we only able to view the “Schools on the Moon” from photographs and videos.
“Schools on the Moon” was a term phrase from my Afghan friend who brought me to this idea to help equip schools especially shelter. On the Afghan / Pakistan border in Nangahar and Kunar, the terrain is barren and just rocks. There aren’t any trees for kilometres; just bareness. The children attend school in the open air. In the summer, it is scorching hot, In the winter, the chilly wind. It is harsh extremes of weather in Afghanistan but education is important.
2. What’s the curriculum like? Besides the basics, how do you and other educators team young Afghan children to hope and inspire them so much that they to walk for miles to attend class.
It is the very basics, mathematics, quran study, Pashto, Dari (there are two languages in Afghanistan).
3. What was it like for these children before the schools? What prospects did they have of getting educated and how socialized were they in terms of their contact with other children?
There was no education for the kids before hand. A lot of children past the age of 14 were attending grade 1 for the first time. Only the main town of particular districts have a built government school. Some childrens may have to walk an hour to attend school at times.
4. The teacher-student relationship is often reversed and we wanted to know what, if any, valuable lessons you have learned from your students?
Children in Afghanistan and developing countries crave education. They crave learning and do not want to be illiterate. They want to better themselves and hope to better their own country with whatever they can learn.
5. How involved are parents with the whole “Schools on the Moon” initiative?
The parents were very happy to see their children go to school. It is rather difficult with the insurgents around trying to close schools, but the parents form jirgas and obviously fight for the rights for their rights for their children to have school.
6. When the children are shown their photographs how to they react?
They seem to love it. For some children, it is the first time they really seen the exterior of themselves. They know they need these photos to be taken. If I could promote and show the world what conditions they were to live in, maybe someone might take notice and donate to the cause. These children are grateful for even a pen or a notebook.
7. What do some of the older children express they want to do in the near future?
Most want to serve the government in somehow shape or form when it comes to work. They do see the future of peace in this country and would like to be heard of what is happening in their district.
8. Since our last Magazine feature where there were 250+ volunteers in 13 countries for “Skateistan” (which I believe is connected with “Schools on the Moon”, in terms of support and funding), what are the updated statistics?
“Skateistan” and “Schools on the Moon” are separate. I left Skateistan to continue working and see more problems in this country and try to solve them grassroots style if I can. Safa Radio and an NGO called INSY in Nangahar help volunteer their time to make this project work. Especially Safa Radio, the Afghans don’t want money for even driving an hour to sometimes 4 to help provide schools for children. They have accepted whatever I can raise and make the most of it. So far we are outfitted almost 15 schools and there might be over 200 along the border who need assistance.
9. Tell us about what we see in the photographs, of daily life in the city and in the home.
I photographed the school and the children and some of the area. It is still considered highly dangerous so have little time I can spend in the area so my next plan is to help give cameras to children, also donated some cameras to Radio Safa so they can continue to document the work being done.
10. I hear the next photographic venture you would like to pursue is giving the kids cameras and having them shoot home life. What have the kids been doing with the cameras already, and what other projects are in store?
I had given some cameras and rolls of film to some guys from Radio Safa with instructions to help document their home life. I am hoping some kids will take part. i will find out more when I can return to area. At the moment I do a project called Kabul at Work www.kabulatwork.tv which is a social life documentation of working in Kabul from the beggar to parliamentary and everyone in-between. It gives me a chance to shoot photos on my LC-A and various cameras I find in Kabul. I am hoping to work on a project to supply cameras to children who are the victim of war who may of been injured from the war their lives and story. There is so much to do in Afghanistan. Also I have established a post rock band in Kabul called the Ring of Steel and we do video art. I am hoping to do a video art piece on the LomoKino when I get the chance.