WHEN Dr Najeeb Hoshang fled Afghanistan with his family, he worried it would have a severe effect on his children’s education.

Nearly three years later, he is full of pride after his oldest son became one of the high-flying members of the Afghan community in Scotland by scoring straight As in all seven of his National exams.

Straight As were also scored in National 5s and Highers by all the Afghan students who, like 16-year-old Ahmad, took part in an after-school club which is now reaching 150 Afghan children across Scotland.

Their achievement is proof of the success of the club which was set up because the children of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers were leaving school with grades so poor they could not easily go on to university.

“Children were failing and not meeting their targets so parents were very concerned,” said Abdul Bostani, founder of the charity Glasgow Afghan United.

Many of the parents had only limited English and were also illiterate in their own languages, but the expense of private tutors for each family was out of the question.

However, Bostani realised it might be possible to arrange classes after school to support groups of children.

“I realised this was a big issue, so we stepped in to help,” said Bostani, who was recently elected as an SNP councillor for Glasgow.

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The club started with just seven children, but in a few weeks, that number had increased to 70, then doubled during the pandemic when the lessons were made available online.

“We gave people devices and did a lot of work making sure they could use them and that was very successful,” said Bostani.

The club now uses office space in Maryhill, but lessons are also still offered online for the children outwith Glasgow.

In addition to lessons in subjects relating to Scottish exams, there are classes in the languages of Afghanistan to ensure children do not lose touch with their roots.

Volunteers from the community, who were teachers in Afghanistan, take classes in Dari and Pashto while those who tutor in subjects taught in Scottish schools are paid through money from the Scottish Government’s New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project.

There is also extra help for pupils who need it to develop their English language skills.

“The younger children are all getting excellent grades too, so it is working really well,” said Bostani.

“It is a massive school now, so we have an educational co-ordinator and around 10 teachers, including the volunteer teachers from Afghanistan.

“In many cases, the parents are illiterate, but their children born in Scotland are able to speak and write in their mother tongue as well as English. My children were all born here, but they are not behind children of their own age in Afghanistan in reading, writing or speaking their language.”

BOSTANI added: “Nowhere in the UK have people done this. This is the only school in Scotland for the Afghan community and it is doing really well. It also helps the children to have a peer support network to overcome any isolation they may experience and to help them through the stress of their studies and exams.”

His 16-year-old son Arman gained As in his seven National Fives and is aiming to go to Glasgow University to study aeronautical engineering, while his 17-year-old daughter Tamanna passed five Highers at grade A and wants to study medicine at Glasgow University.

Hoshang’s son Ahmad also aims to study medicine and is taking Highers in chemistry, biology, maths, English and Geography.

“The club really helped me, and Glasgow has been really welcoming, so I was able to settle really quickly,” he said.

His father said he was “shocked” when he learned his son had gained straight As because he had been concerned his children’s future would be affected by his decision to claim asylum in the UK at the end of 2019.

THE family was sent to Glasgow, but Hoshang said neither he nor his children, including Mirysht, 14, Suha, 9, and Aqeel, 8, now wanted to go anywhere else.

“The Scottish people, especially in Glasgow, are very friendly and the children have settled well and want to continue here to pay back all the support they have received,” said Hoshang, who worked for Afghanistan’s ministry of public health and ran primary healthcare for the country.

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He is now in the process of registration with the General Medical Council so that he can work as a doctor in Scotland, while his wife Maniza, who was a teacher in Afghanistan, is studying at Glasgow Kelvin College so she can teach here.

“I had a 20-year career in Afghanistan but I did not have any option but to leave my country. It was difficult to leave as my parents and siblings and my wife’s parents and siblings are still there and in a difficult situation, but at least we are in a safe place and now that the kids are doing great, I feel all the sacrifice is getting a return.

Hoshang added: “At first, I was worried about how our children would cope, but when I found my son had straight As, I felt very

proud. It made me realise that anyone who works hard, and has support and a welcome from their community, can do much more than our expectations.”