Marga Flader and Leo Heyelmann report from their project visit in October/November 2015
Our two week trip to Andkhoi, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul was unfortunately overshadowed by fighting in Kunduz and unrest in the capital of the province of Faryab to which Andkhoi belongs. The worry about “Security” was hovering above everything we were planning. Looking back we can say that everything went well and during our stay everything was done to keep us safe. We could do all visits and conduct all talks which were necessary to prepare future proposals.
As during all our previous project visits, we visited some of our school projects. Again we were impressed by the charisma and the eagerness to learn of the majority of the students. Principals and teachers find it difficult, of course, to work under the prevailing difficult conditions (in tents or ruins, without text books, insufficient teaching materials, no funds for repairs, low salaries). However, many schools do manage to bring about improvements. We try to help through our small projects fund: Schools can obtain money from us for repairs or small construction projects if their community also helps to provide a contribution. In Mazar-e-Sharif for example a school has just start construction of three classrooms. This is what we call “Help for Self-Help”. A lot has been achieved under this scheme and we would like – with your donations – continue funding projects under the “Small Project Fund”.
We were happy to visit the construction site for the new Maula Ali school which is going well. We also went to the place where the children study right now. They only have some make-shift tents and small dark rooms. No matter if temperature are as high as 45°C or if the wind tears down the “tents”. Everyone was happy because an end is in sight; our proposal had been accepted and we had also been able to collect the required 10 %. Thanks for your support to make it possible.
Arriving in our Education Centre we felt right at home from the first moment. The boys and girls are coming regularly and the standard of education here is very good. Our teaching staff is interested using modern teaching methods. Here one example from an English class: To motivate students to speak freely, they were asked to have a debate in two groups discussing the topic of staying in Afghanistan or leaving. This discussion touched a very important topic as many Afghans are leaving their country right now. Some girls were of the opinion that it was ok to leave for university studies in another country while others mentioned the bad security in Afghanistan. Others said that it was important to help build up a peaceful Afghanistan and to work actively in helping the poor people who could not help themselves. We were really impressed to watch this lively discussion between the two groups and by the good use of English.
To help improve the teaching standard in schools, we have been organizing teacher training seminars during the school holidays and have constructed a new building for the Teacher Training Institute in Andkhoi. The big building with 31 rooms is almost ready and would help bring about improvements in the training of teachers.
During our project visit we worked on another idea for an improvement of the teaching standard in some schools where they do not have a qualified teacher in an important school subject: In future, we want to have “assistants” in all our courses, i.e. giving young teachers the opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher (so called in-service-training).
The topic of this visit's show which is traditionally organized every Thursday was “Teachers’ Day” which was celebrated all over Afghanistan. With songs, poems, speeches and role plays, the students showed the importance of this profession. At the end, there was even a big cake on stage of the conference hall and flowers for all teachers present. Knowing about the importance of having good teachers, we wondered why none of the students wanted to become a teacher: Their answer was that the salary was too low - not enough to feed a family.
It was very pleasant and enjoyable to visit our new Women Centre which we did very frequently during our stay in Andkhoi. It is motivating for our future work that this concept has been successful. The centre has been accepted by the community. Not only 36 students come regularly for training, but also many women from the neighbourhood just come for shopping or talking or a cup of tea. The women’s centre has developed into a lively meeting place. We were lucky and were guests at a party. It was great to see the women and girls from a different angle: Games were played, there was laughter and dancing. The women of the centre had already started working on another help project: They were busy cutting and sewing warm clothes for children who are living in a camp in Kabul. During a short visit in such a camp we found children wearing “our clothes” which they got last winter. It was a pleasure seeing that our help is reaching the needy people.
With our colleagues we discussed the possibility of opening a second women’s centre in a village south of Andkhoi. We visited the place and had talks with the people in charge. We would like to offer general knowledge courses in both women centres, for example about the history of Afghanistan, health, safety in the home etc.
In Kabul too there was reason for optimism when we met the heads of the MMCC Mini Mobile Children’s Circus who have carried out projects for children in many provinces for several years. Hopefully, they would also set up a branch in Andkhoi. We had already been able to watch the kids juggling and balancing during our visit to Maqsadullah school in Mazar-e-Sharif. Meeting again with the team of Bond Street Theatre was also exciting. For many years the members of this Theatre Group have had projects in different parts of Afghanistan. Maybe we can again work together in the future.
After many project visits, discussions and a workshop with the members of our management staff, we set off for our annual outing which took us to Lake Qarghah on the outskirts of Kabul. Eleven people in two cars! We had a good lunch, some nice short walks and an enjoyable boot trip on the lake. Such activities help to have good cooperation among the team who work in different places and are normally in touch only by mail or telephone.
We hope that we could give you a little bit of insight into our many activities.
With our projects, we are not only giving work to many people, but we are also giving hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. We want to continue our work or even increase it. Please continue your support!