One of our first visits here in Kabul was Kabul University, the faculty of agriculture. Butterfly works had contact to students back home in the Netherlands who connected them to the faculty. We felt honored to be welcomed by the dean and at least 10 of the faculty’s professors. Being asked about the purpose of our visit to the University a huge discussion among the professors started wether it was worth discussing with us or rather a waste of time. One of them left;-)
Th entire conversation was very hierachical structured and one could feel “academia”.
Most of the staff was very old, have been in their jobs for decades and many of them resist successfully change.
Many of the students join exchange programs to achieve their master or PhD in the US or Japan, hoping when they return back home to fosetr change. But “old academia” is still strong and powerful enough to keep them at least partially out of influential positions. A real challenge for the youngsters.
Butterfly’s goal was to find out if there is a chance to include the University somehow in the Great Idea project. It could be anything from translating texts, assissting teachers and students, advising regarding the content, learning how to use mobile technologies in their own environment … Two professors became really engaged and saw a chance to benefit. It was them who showed us around.
The University is only slowly recovering from the Taliban regime. There is a lack of everything.
We went to see the agriculture lab and the IT-room of the faculty: 18 workstations – partially functioning for more than 500 students. Here are two short interviews I conducted: the first one with 2 staff members (agriculture lab), the other one with the head of the IT-room. Surprisingly enough 2 students took the chance to speak up and tell us about their problems with IT (see end of second interview):
Walking over the campus I got the impression that students are happy to be there. I was surprised by the number of women (15-20% they say are female students) and I felt sad about the opportunities which will be missed because of the old staff but also because of the insufficient help coming in from third countries. Countries like Afghanistan have the chance to redefine academia and the way universities are working, they don’t need to make the same mistakes we’ve made, they should bypass and build something new according to their needs and expectations. But this is something they aren’t teached … and it is also something which development aid hardly ever puts on the table.
History (according to Wikipedia)
Kabul University was established in 1931, opening its doors one year later to students from across the country. Having benefited from partnerships with the governments of France, Germany, Russia, and the United States the university became one of the finest institutions of its kind in Asia, the intellectual heart of the country. In the 1960s foreign-educated scholars populated the campus, exposing the new generation to new topics such as communism, feminism and capitalism. Students influenced during this era included Ahmad Shah Massoud, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Dr. Faiz Ahmad, and Saydal Sokhandan.
Many different political groups were influenced in the University such as Khaliqis, Parchamis, Sholayees, Ikhwanis, and etc. In a clash between Ikhwanis and Sholayees, a poet named Saydal Sokhandan was killed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the 1970s. Saydal was fired upon and shot by Gulbuddin during an argument.
During the governance of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Kabul University lost several lecturers and staff. The majority of the university’s faculty left during the 10 year period of unrest or civil war that followed after the fall of the PDPA government in 1992.