Michael's Dispatches

Education and Challenges in Afghanistan

8 Comments Also, Dexter Filkins wrote a fine piece regarding girls returning to school after the acid attacks in Afghanistan:

“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Please Click here to read the entire article on the nytimes.com

Despite my own general misgivings about Afghanistan, there definitely are points of light.  Dexter's story provides another glimpse.  More girls are going to school, for instance.

In regard to long-term education goals, it would seem important that we help facilitate training in a major language such as English or French.  If a kid is literate in Pashto, what difference does it make when it comes to entering and accessing the larger world?  Literacy in Dari can be helpful because Dari readers can more easily access the world through the Farsi language highway (but the Farsi highway passes largely through the Iranian filter, which might not be particularly helpful to us).  It seems that flooding Afghanistan with English learning materials would be in everyone's best interest.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Blain Nelson · 13 years ago
    I'm interested in learning how fundraising to provide the surgery this girl needs could get to her. Courage to come back in the face of those injuries needs to be encouraged.

    So, if anybody knows anybody in country who could figure out what needs to happen to make this work, and how they can be reached, please let me know. I'm going to do what I can do to get some wheels turning to gather the resources to make that possible. You can use shamsia@blainn.com to reach me about this.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matthew Gonzalez · 13 years ago
    Very interesting point you made about teaching kids either French or English, Michael. While I really think you are right in regard to the need to teach them a major language, I don't know how willing the Afghanis will be to learn one, especially if it isn't spoken at home, or won't be spoken at home until several generations from now. If it can be used as any model, the US tried to teach Puerto Rico English in it's schools, and has been doing so for 100 years, and we've had mixed results. While education is essential, everyone knows there is no short term fix for it, even if you build hundreds of excellent schools in a nation, it still takes time. While this is something we can be optimistic about, there are still important issues that need immediate solutions.

    There was an interesting book I saw at Border's Books called The Bookseller of Kabul. I would have bought it, but at the time I didn't have the cash for it on me....now I'm thinking of going back there to get it, just because of this little entry on your site.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    amcvay · 13 years ago
    Please, if you have not already, read Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen. First, cool story about climing K2, followed by an inspired story of a man who sees the need for education among the tribal villages to break the centuries old cycle of war. By delivering on some basic security and infrastructure we may win over some of the people of Afghanistan, but unless we educate the women in the tribal villages of the mountains we should not expect a lasting peace or the end of the Taliban style rule.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Denny, Alaska · 13 years ago
    Ah, Islam: the religion of peace.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gordon Stewart · 13 years ago
    I second the recommendation for Greg Mortensen's book. My daughter's school raised $9000 last year (in pennies!) and he came to speak about his book and his travels through Pakistan. A great guy on top of his accomplishments.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    William Hughes · 13 years ago
    A woman in my community originally from Afghanistan founded this organization which has built a medical clinic and primary school in the Beshood District. They also support literacy, health and vocational classes for women and sponsor emergency distribution of wheat flour. More information is available at: http://www.awakeninc.org
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lukas · 13 years ago
    There are a couple of lost generations in Afghanistan and the greatest priority must be to educate Afghans. There is no cohort of trained Afghans ready to take the place of the generation educated before the invasion and civil war.
    Most Afghans with any technical or scientific training were taught in Russian, which has remained the primary language for sharing technical information. Our colleagues are trying to master English, but it is difficult for middle aged people.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Caitlin · 13 years ago
    I third the recommendation for "Three Cups of Tea." Both Greg Mortensen and the nonprofit I work for share the same mission about educating children, especially girls, in Afghanistan and throughout South/Central Asia. Mortensen's org is @ http://ikat.org and I work for Barakat, Inc. @ http://www.barakatworld.org

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