Study Guide

A Thousand Splendid Suns Education

By Khaled Hosseini

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Part 1

She pictured herself in a classroom with other girls her age. Mariam longed to place a ruler on a page and draw important-looking lines. (1.3.26)

Education is not valued in Mariam's childhood home. As a result, she romanticizes the idea of learning. In truth, her lack of education is directly tied to the persecution she feels as a harami.

Part 2

For the last two years, Laila had received the awal numra certificate, given yearly to the top-ranked student in each grade. She said nothing of these things to Hasina, though, whose own father was an ill-tempered taxi driver who in two or three years would almost certainly give her away. (2.16.57)

There are gender double standards even when girls are allowed to go to school. The reality for many girls, like Giti and Hasina, is that an early arranged marriage is more likely than a college education.

There, men saw it as an insult to their centuries-old tradition, Babi said, to be told by the government—and a godless one at that—that their daughters had to leave home, attend school, and work alongside men. (2.18.108)

Laila is born in Kabul where she has access to education, but many women in Afghanistan don't even get that opportunity. Even worse, the greater access to education for girls afforded by the Soviets prompts a backlash from rural communities.

"He's going to ask for my hand, Laila! Maybe as early as this summer." [...] "What about school?" Laila had asked. Giti had tilted her head and given her a We both know better look. (2.23.60)

Laila is dedicated to her schooling, but most of her female friends aren't. That might be due to societal pressure, or it might just be due to the realities of family life. Either way, the deck is stacked against girls who want to get an education.

The streets became so unsafe that Babi did an unthinkable thing: He had Laila drop out of school. (2.24.32)

Of course, the growing war between the Mujahideen has a big impact on the education system. The war doesn't only affect girls who want to go to school—it affects everyone. How can a country be expected to recover if its children can't get an education?

Babi (Hakim)

In fact, Babi thought that the one thing the communists had done right […] was in the field of education […] Almost two-thirds of the students at Kabul University were women now, Babi said. (2.18.103)

The Soviet regime is portrayed harshly in A Thousand Splendid Suns, but its view on women's education is a rare bright spot. Even Babi has to give them credit despite the fact that they had fired him from his job as a teacher.

A society has no chance at success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance. (2.16.56)

Babi, on the other hand, is a devout believer in the importance of education. His dedication to the education of women stands out, as there are so few pro-women male voices in the novel.

Part 3

Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately. (3.38.45)

One of the Taliban's first decrees is to ban girls from going to school. With one simple edict, the Taliban prevents an entire generation of girls from becoming educated and empowered. This allows the Taliban to remain firmly in power without having to worry about a women's uprising.


Aziza said Kaka Zaman made it a point to teach them something every day […]

"But we have to pull the curtains," Aziza said, "so the Taliban don't see us." (3.42.75-76)

Some girls, like Aziza, are still able to attain an education, despite the Taliban's regulations. But seriously: kids shouldn't have to hide from men with guns just because they want to do their homework.

"[T]he husband fancies himself some kind of educated intellectual. But he's a mouse. Look at him. Doesn't he look like a mouse?" (1.12.13)

Rasheed's attitude towards the educated is part and parcel with the Taliban's. In his eyes, intelligence is tied to weakness in men. And women? Well, why would you even teach them in the first place?

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