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Men carry the coffin of a relative who died in the suicide bombing at Mawoud Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2018. © 2018 Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

Madina, 17, headed off to class last Wednesday as she had always done, pursuing her hope to go to university and earn a business degree so she could start her own company. But for Madina and 39 other students – all under 20 years old – those dreams will never come true.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a large classroom in Kabul’s Mawoud Academy, which runs courses to prepare students for Afghanistan’s university entrance exam. Most of the students had come to Kabul from poorer areas of the country just for this chance to study. Forty students, male and female, died in the attack, and at least 67 were injured.

Madina died two days after the attack. Her family told me that she had always been frustrated that some girls she knew could not afford tuition fees, and she hoped one day to be able to help other Afghan girls study. To honor those wishes, her father Ismael La’li announced on social media that instead of spending money on a large funeral, he will give 500,000 afghanis (US$6,900) to help pay for the medical treatment of other students injured in the attack, as well as the tuition costs of four of Madina’s classmates.

Ataullah and Farzana, twin brother and sister, were also among the victims. They had hopes of going to law school. Their father was working the night shift in a bakery to afford their tuition. “They left the world together,” he said. “They were one soul, in two bodies.”

The Islamic State of Khorasan province (ISKP), the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack; the attacker was himself a teenage boy.

The bombing was the latest in a series of horrific crimes by ISKP targeting Hazaras, a predominantly Shia minority in Afghanistan. It was also part of a broader pattern of attacks by the group on the right to education.

Two days later, some students were already back in class, even some of those who were badly injured. Madina’s father expressed the feelings of many when he said, “No one can stop us from getting an education. If they kill one of our students, we will enroll five others to schools and send them to universities.”

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