Twice a year members of VUSAF Germany visit the projects in Afghanistan – the last time in April/May 2013. For Marga Flader it was the twentyfirst visit and for Friedrich Dahlhaus the first. In Mazar-e-Sharif we were present when a school and a kindergarten were inaugurated. In Andkhoi too, a new kindergarten was handed over during a very nice celebration. Of course, many other things happened during our three weeks’ long journey.
1. Teacher Training
During the 29 years of existence, the committee has built 44 schools, nine further schools got additional classrooms and twelve were repaired so that normal lessons can take place again in these buildings. At present, there are four construction projects going on. We can be proud of these achievements. But: During the past years, we realized that many of the teachers whom we have seen in class are not qualified enough. Teacher training has not yet been fully developed, in the rural area of Andkhoi more so than in Kabul or Mazar-e-Sharif. We visited the Teacher Training
Institute (TTI) in Mazar and the Teacher Training College (TTC) in Andkhoi and found the TTC in poor condition. All teachers actually wish to get good training in order to prepare the lessons in a better way, especially because they are facing problems with new text books. Therefore, we will again become active in this field – like we were ten years ago. After a first workshop in January 2013, we are organizing a four-week seminar during the summer holidays for 140 teachers who are already “in service”. Furthermore, we will send competent trainers from the TTC to workshops organized by the GIZ in Mazar. Hopefully, afterwards, they will be able to pass on the new ideas and methods to their colleagues in Andkhoi.
2. A Women’s Centre in Andkhoi
Since the early days our committee has supported girls‘ education as much as boys‘ education. The young girls we met then are now women. Some of them are studying at university in Mazar-e-Sharif or Kabul. Others have become teachers in schools or kindergartens. In our sewing courses, the women do not only learn how to sew, but also reading, writing, arithmetic and about health for mother and child. But still there is a lot to be done to improve the life of the women in Andkhoi and the villages. Now one wish is becoming reality.
But first some other news:
For the last three years we have trained young men to become electricians in the compound of our Education Centre in Andkhoi. It was not easy to find boys/young men who were ready for this kind of training and to keep them interested for a whole year. Vocational training is organized differently in Afghanistan. A young person accompanies his master for many years. We have now learned this lesson. We also think that, having trained 24 young men, there are now enough qualified electricians in the area.
So after the end of the third course the rooms which were used by the electricians will be free. We will renovate everything and then use them for a new Women’s Centre: One room for sewing and embroidery and another for
gatherings and for selling and buying products which the ladies have made themselves. The participants of our courses will also learn how to present the products, selling and bookkeeping.
The Women’s Centre can start in the three rooms, but in the long term we would like to build a bigger showroom, a kitchen and a washroom and also make a nice garden – however, for this we will need some financial help. We think that around EUR 30,000 would be needed. It would be money well spent because we are sure it would bring great improvement to the life of the women in Andkhoi.
3. Are changes possible in Afghanistan? Some impressions:
In discussions with the young people in our courses, we often talked about “honesty“. We felt that the students were very serious about this, knowing about the problems in society where from top to bottom corruption prevails.
We watched a role play where 12th grade students were acting to be a group of parliamentarians. Although we could not understand what they talked about in Dari (Persian), we did get the meaning and were impressed to see how serious the young people were in condemning dishonesty. In another role play, the girls were staging a wedding and problems connected with arranged marriages, dowries etc. We watched the audience and saw them laughing hilariously but also shedding tears.
In a village school we talked with the girls of 12th grade about their wishes for their future. Some wanted to go to university, another one wanted to become a midwife. We asked if someone had attended one of our home schools. Four girls raised their hands. In a 11th grade-class there were another eight girls who had started their education in a home course and continued their studies in normal state school. Had we continued asking in other classes, we would probably have heard about more girls with such a background. We did not; we were already very happy about what we had learned.
We asked the students about their hopes and expectations. While in Germany, students might reply that they hope to have enough money, find happiness or have influence, here we heard: “I would like to serve my country” and “I want to become a doctor or engineer and serve my country”. – Maybe some of these ideals get lost in the following years – everybody knows this. But the strong will to bring positive changes which we could see in the students is one of the strongest impressions gained during this trip.
4. Change of Generations
At the end of our visit when we were sitting together with our colleagues from Andkhoi and Kabul in our office to discuss what we had experienced during the last weeks, the expression „change of generations“ came to mind.
Last autumn our country director who had worked for us since 1999 left Kabul (he is still advising us now from abroad). Because he is an architect, it was necessary to employ a construction engineer. We wanted to be sure that the double story schools which we are building in earthquake prone zones are safe. The earthquake which we experienced while we were in Kabul showed us clearly that traditional knowledge and practical experience alone is not enough to construct such big school buildings. All other responsibilities as country director were taken over by the son of our first regional director who was murdered in Andkhoi in 2007. He wants to carry on what his father started.
In Andkhoi there was change, too. The regional director was replaced by someone who is representing the next generation. Also in Andkhoi we have employed a young woman who will be responsible for the women’s centre and the other women’s projects we have in that region.
Saying farewell to people whom you have known for a long time is not easy but we are confident that with the new colleagues we have found the right persons.
Change is also happening in the schools. The new female principals are very active and keep in contact with parents so that intelligent young women can go to school until 12th grade and take the exams to go to university. A very successful principal and a head of education were moved to a village - not as a punishment but with the aim to improve education also in that area (we were also asked for help).
5. A view from here / a view from there
Towards the end of our stay in Afghanistan, Ulla Nölle wanted to come to Kabul. Together with a team from German national TV she wanted to take a look back at her achievements in Andkhoi. The trip was cancelled at the last minute. After some security problems in the province of Baghlan, the TV Company followed official recommendations to avoid dangerous areas. Seen from Europe this may seem understandable; we in Afghanistan could only say: What a pity! Are such recommendations politics or are they given because of care? That day when Ulla Nölle could not travel, we were in the mountains of beautiful Paghman with our colleagues - a peaceful place to relax. We enjoyed the day and we wished very much that the reports on Afghanistan would release more about what we experienced during this trip: A country of overwhelming hospitality and young people who are struggling for a better life.
We would like to close this report with the request to please continue your support for our committee because only with your help we will be able to continue our projects and – for example – build the showroom for the women’s centre.
Thank you and best regards
Marga Flader Friedrich Dahlhaus