• DPPC Team

Young Afghan Woman, 18, Earns the Highest Score on Kankor, the National University Entrance Exam

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Her test prep center was attacked by ISIS in 2018. Two years later, she overcame extreme adversity to achieve one of the highest academic honors in Afghanistan.



Shamsia Alizada, the daughter of a coal miner, was only sixteen when a suicide bomber attacked her test prep center in Kabul. She survived, but forty of her fellow classmates, including two of her closest friends were killed. The attack left Shamsia severely depressed and resulted in her dropping out of the test prep center that prepares Kabul students for the National University Entrance Exam.

Encouraged by teachers to continue her studies and pursue higher education, Shamsia returned to her studies and earned the highest score on Kankor, out of more than 200,000 Afghan students across the country who took the exam this year. Shamsia’s achievement has become a national inspiration and a symbol of pride for Afghans. Kankor is a right of passage for Afghan youth and a path to upward mobility for many whose means do not afford them opportunities for advancement. In a ceremony at the Afghan Parliament, Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani recognized Shamsia’s achievement and presented her with an award of national recognition.


Shamsia embodies the strength and bravery of Afghan women, who overcome violence, threats of violence, and discrimination to perserve and fight for equal opportunity and better lives for themselves and their families. Less than a generation ago young women like Shamisa were prohibited from attending school. The Taliban dictatorship denied all Afghan women and girls their basic human rights and freedoms, and treated women as pariahs in society who were not allowed to attend school work or even leave their homes without a male relative escort. Public beatings, stonings and executions of women were the norm.

Less than two decades after the end of the Taliban dictatorship, life for Afghan women is not perfect but it is significantly improved. If young women like Shamsia are any indication, the future holds so much promise and possibility for continued improvement. The ongoing peace negotiations in Doha between GIRoA and the Taliban insurgents holds the fate of Afghan women in the balance. Afghan people want and deserve peace, but Afghans also acknowledge that women rights are human rights and that any peace agreement that does not respect this fundamental tenet of Afghan society is condemned and doomed to fail.