Friedrich Dahlhaus and Marga Flader
report about their trip to Afghanistan
in Spring 2016
For many years I have travelled to Afghanistan and am always happy to be there. From time to time I compare my visits with those of my first journey 18 years ago and those of 2005 and 2006, the times when we could travel in Afghanistan without worries. It is clear to us that nowadays we have to take precautions, for example by being accompanied by the police when we travel to the villages.
Since the withdrawal of the soviet troops in 1998, we have constructed 50 big school buildings plus our education centre and women's centre, 16 smaller additions to schools, 23 water reservoirs and wells. Additionally, our education centre and women’s centre. It is necessary that the construction of school buildings continues; many children are still studying in tents or in substandard rented rooms – Friedrich Dahlhaus, who accompanied me for the third time, is writing about that. Our prep. courses for young people who want to go to university are successful: The best results in the kankor exam (entry exam for university) for the province of Faryab have been achieved by students of our Education Centre (a girl and a boy). Also our three home courses (lessons in private homes) are bringing positive changes: In a meeting with our students’ representatives, two sisters told us that their father had changed his mind, he now considers school education for girls important and right. They are the first girls in their family who are attending school. We are also happy that the majority of the girls finishing our home courses continues their education in a state school.
We can have great confidence in our VUSAF regional director. He runs the projects in Andkhoi and especially the Education Centre in a competent way and with such empathy that I could spend more time in our Women’s Centre where I took part in different activities. One important and new part are the lectures on general knowledge. As one of 50 women I listened to a lecture on the history of the region and I could feel how well this Centre has developed and how important it is for the women to have a place where they can meet outside of their private homes. We visited a group of students who work in the Women’s Centre on two days/week in their village sewing centre. They told us in a moving way how the training has changed their lives. A young woman was in tears as she spoke about the time her parents died when she was 5 and that her brother had not allowed her to attend school; only now aged 20 she had received the chance to learn reading, writing and arithmetic as well as a handicraft which enables her to earn her own money. A widow told us how difficult it had been to raise her sons on her own. Now with an income things have become somewhat easier. One after the other the young women talked about their difficult life. It was good to see how confident they had become in the last 16 months.
All women’s projects are running successfully, and so it seemed right to us to invite our teachers and project manageress to an outing in Mazar-e-Sharif. Would they really be able to come? How should we look after 14 women over two days? In the end everything was simple and everyone enjoyed the time together, the many talks, the visit to the famous Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif and the rose garden around it and in the evening a picnic in a park. The men provided everything the women needed – something which the women really appreciated. Now everyone feels strong enough to start the preparation for the next project: Setting up a new women’s centre in Qurghan, about 5 km south of Andkhoi
Some of the journeys which take us from Germany to the projects in Afghanistan gain a special colour once we are there. The work we do for and with women, as Marga Flader wrote, provided the special colour of this journey. Again and again this also touched me as a man deeply.
I would now like to write about the essence of our work which is to implement projects to improve the quality of education for boys and girls in state schools:
Current Construction Projects: In autumn 2014 we saw two places where the problems were especially great. In Khaliqdad, 4500 girls and boys were taught in three shifts under torn tents sitting on broken furniture. As a teacher I was especially impressed that teaching was possible under such difficult conditions. The lessons are still taking place in these tents which have been moved close together to make space for the construction site. A building with 24 classrooms, conference hall and six other rooms is under construction and should be ready in spring 2017. In Khaliqdad we experienced something new: The foundations which should have been 80 cm deep had to be dug to more than 2 m because the ground was soft. Additional costs of about 27.000 Euro are expected. We managed to reduce them in negotiations with the construction company to EUR 21.000. We will try to convince our donor to reimburse these costs but it is possible that we will have to bear them ourselves from private donations.
In Maula Ali, another poor suburb of Mazar-e-Sharif, we saw similarly wretched conditions. In autumn 2014, we had decided to act quickly. Here too we are constructing a 24-classroom school building which is almost ready and we are happy to say that everything looks fine.
Soon we will start another building for the Ghazi Amanullah School; the funds are available.
In Andkhoi, the construction of three classrooms is well under way and as part of the project a mound of earth was removed to create a school yard.
It is very satisfying to see the need during one visit and realize later-on that – with the help of your donations - we could bring the necessary positive changes.
Current needs: In Mazar we were taken to two schools where the need is great. Our construction engineer is working on suggestions how we can help. - In Nayestan, Khancharbagh district, we were impressed by the around 25 primary students who – like their fellow students in this school - were studying in rooms of about 8 square metres. Our regional director wanted to see what the students had learned so far under these difficult conditions and we were more than surprised how lively and eager to learn these young girls and boys were. We also went to see the land which is available for a new school building; the community has already constructed the boundary. A simple school building would cost about 20.000 €. It would be wonderful if – with your help – we could begin construction during the course of this year.
Over the years, our cooperation with the schools has led to improvements of other facilities also:
Water reservoirs and wells, toilets and handwashing facilities, the women centre and buildings for kindergartens. In Andkhoi, the teacher training college has just started using the new building. In the school holidays, teacher training seminars are provided. During this project visit we realized once again how necessary a kindergarten is for the female teachers who do not have family members to look after their children. Day nurseries for the children are not available. We already have some experience in this field. We also talked a lot about ecological problems and want our students to become aware of what they can do in this regard. Now we are glad to have found a teacher in this field who will work in our education centre.
We could convince ourselves that our committee is doing a good job in a very poor country. This has only been possible through your support. We trust that you will also help us with the future projects which we would like to implement.