Marga Flader and Tanja Khorrami:
Our visit to Afghanistan
in Spring 2015
Afghanistan in spring – there was enough rain, trees have been planted everywhere in the streets and gardens, the fields are green, and the roses are in full bloom – wonderful!
Unfortunately, also the “oppositional groups”, as they are called officially, used the spring to increase their attacks. Security was a much discussed topic. Nevertheless, we still had a relaxed and successful trip and this was mainly because of our well informed Afghan colleagues. They advised us for example about the current situation in and around Andkhoi. In this region, the “local police” (armed villagers who officially support the police) have driven out the Taliban which were still active there last year. For the first time in years we have been able to go to the district of Qaramqul. We visited our mathematics course in Yussuf Mirzai Girls School.
The girls themselves had asked for this special course. It was overwhelming to meet these girls and listen to their problems with the Taleban till not long ago. Sometimes they came to school without wearing their school uniforms. Even the arson attack on their school building five years ago stopped them from attending school only for a short time. The ceiling blackened by smoke has been painted over,. However, since then water is coming through the roof in winter; the plastic sheeting underneath the mud plastering must have melted due to the heat. The repair would cost a bit, but – with your help – we should manage. The girls are also asking for additional courses to learn English and acquire computer skills. They want to learn – the more the better.
This attitude of the young generation we found everywhere in Northern Afghanistan – in all schools in towns or villages. The so-called Komaki-courses (additional lessons) are running very well. Teachers of our Education Centre go to various schools to teach, in particular, mathematics, chemistry, English and computer skills. A teacher of the school joins the class as assistant teacher and benefits in this way for his own lessons.
Our Education Centre is a busy place. The best teachers of Andkhoi teach all subjects. Very popular are, of course, English and computer lessons which are useful for the internet researches increasingly done with smartphones. The fees are affordable, especially as most young people try to earn some money of their own.
On Thursday we enjoyed very much, as in previous years, the special shows which are organised in the Conference Hall of the Education Centre. Girls of grade 7 to 9 and boys of grade 10 to 12 had chosen the murder of Farkhunda as a topic for a role play and a special musical presentation. We were moved to tears. In speeches the young people did not only condemn the killing, but also demand that human rights be respected by everyone in society. In addition, there was another role play about environmental issues and one about respectful relationships with other people, for example poor shoeshine boys. More than 200 young people take part in these Thursday events every week and are made aware of different social problems and how to deal with them. A great success for the young people and their teachers in the Education Centre.
We visited our Women Centre every day. The friendly atmosphere attracts around 80 women every week to this nice place. The women of Andkhoi and the surrounding villages learn here how to sew in a professional way and different kinds of embroidery. They come here to buy and sell and above all to meet other women and talk. The manageress and her team are already busy making plans to increase the program in the future.Every village in the Andkhoi region now has a school, although not each one has a proper building. In Aq Masjid the community is busy constructing the boundary wall so that the construction of a school building can start in the coming weeks. Therefore, we will be able to slowly phase out our home courses. For many young women these home courses have been the stepping stone to learn the subjects of six school years in three years and join state school at grade 7. Even if some of them have learned “only” reading, writing and arithmetic, it would also have given them a lot of confidence for their future life. Others have meanwhile finished school and are planning to start or have already started their studies at university. 1100 boys and girls of all schools in the four districts around Andkhoi have passed the entry exam for university or college. About 44 % of them are girls whose final scores were the best.
Of course, there is still a lot to do: By the end of 2015 the building for the Teacher Training College should be completed. During our visit at the construction site we met a young electrician who was busy with doing the wiring of the building. He told us that he had learned his skills in our Education Centre. “It has changed my life. I was illiterate – I am so grateful for your help!”
In the big town of Mazar-e-Sharif, we were very happy to take part in the inauguration of a big school building for the students of Ahmed Shah Masood School. Especially Ulla Nölle was very happy. At the age of 90 she had dared again to undertake the strenuous journey to Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Andkhoi together with Siba Shakib who will make a film about the founder of our committee.
On the next day, when we inaugurated the Kindergarten at Maqsadullah Shaheed School, they were already on their way to Andkhoi. The funds required for creating this nice new kindergarten were collected by students of five schools in Neubiberg in Southern Germany who had organized a “Run for Peace in Afghanistan”. The new principal is well trained and wants to use modern methods to run this kindergarten.
Other schools in Mazar also urgently need more classrooms. In the province of Balkh alone, there are 128 schools without any school building at all. We have plans to build another two schools in the coming years with the help of the German Ministry for Development (BMZ). We will have to fund 10 % through private donations – a huge sum. We are hoping for your support! Other students are still studying under torn tents or even in the open air without any protection from heat and cold. All these schools have 2000 to 4000 students who are taught in two or three shifts.
Despite great changes like the construction of roads and buildings, the creations of parks, planting trees along the roadside, setting up new factories, bringing improvements with respect to electrification and water supply, repairing historical buildings etc., there are still great deficiencies in the field of education, lack of employment opportunities and, above all, security. Most people ask for better security. They are expecting an honest government leadership, a fight against corruption and investments also from foreign investors. Everyone knows that education is of special importance for all these aspects.
Let’s continue with our “help for self-help”. Please support us in our endeavours with your donations.
Marga Flader and Tanja Khorrami