Angelina Jolie, beautiful stranger behind Afghan school
At a school in a bombed-out Afghan village near Kabul, Angelina Jolie is known as an aid worker or engineer, never as one of the world's most famous film stars.Updated: Apr 15, 2013 13:22 IST
At a school in a bombed-out Afghan village near Kabul, Angelina Jolie is known as an aid worker or engineer, never as one of the world's most famous film stars.
Jolie, a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, built the school in Qala-i-Gudar last year and is planning to open more in Afghanistan with profits from a newly-launched jewellery line that she has designed.
The Hollywood star visited Qala-i-Gudar in 2011, and she retains an avid fan base among residents who have never seen any of her films and have no idea about her global fame as an actress.
Acting is controversial in the country, with many conservative Afghans associating it with un-Islamic behaviour and even prostitution.
Homaira, aged 13, is one of 250 pupils at the all-girls school who has benefited from the new facilities, which opened for their first full academic year last month.
"We used to study in the backyard of the mosque, it was hard," Homaira told AFP. "Now we are so happy to have a school. It's a beautiful place."
Asked who built her school, Homaira smiled and answered, "the beautiful American lady."
The two-storey building, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Kabul, has large windows and neat rows of desks. On the outside, which is painted light blue, is a plaque proudly boasting of its founder.
"Through the generous contribution of Angelina Jolie UNHCR Special Envoy," it reads.
Even headmaster Gul Rahmman Ayaz appeared ignorant of Jolie's superstar celebrity, apparently believing she was a senior UNHCR official.
"Is she?" Ayaz asked doubtfully after learning Jolie was an actress. "Well whatever, she is a great woman, very kind woman," he added with a smile.
Ayaz recalled Jolie visiting the mosque's open backyard, which at the time served as a classroom, and sitting cross-legged with villagers discussing her plan to found a modern school.
"She was very humble. She sat on dust. She didn't behave like a movie star," Ayaz said, remembering Jolie arrived in a UN-marked vehicle and wore a modest outfit and headscarf.
Sabera, the school's only female teacher, believed Jolie was a reconstruction expert sent to build schools in Afghanistan as it struggles to emerge from decades of war that left the village in ruins.
"I thought she was an engineer," said Sabera, 30, who like most Afghans uses only one name. "I have never seen her movies but I hope she comes back."
First Published: Apr 15, 2013 13:19 IST