Afghan educators visit School

Afghan educators visiting UMass plan community college system in their country

mass April 9, 2013

AMHERST – Afghan educators said they prefer to focus on the positive changes they see in their country rather than the negative – such as the attack Saturday that killed six Americans, including Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old U.S. diplomat.

Image at left:  The College of Education at UMass hosted educators from Afganistan. The are here to observe area community colleges to set up a similar system in their country. Homa Khalid, right, is the senior teaching assistant at Kabul Polytechnic University. Abdul Qayuom Karimzada Vice Chancellor Kabul Polytecnic University is to the left. photo by The Republican / John Suchocki

The entourage was traveling to donate books to students in a school in the south at the time of the attack.

Six educators participating in the University of Massachusetts College of Education Center for International Education's Higher Education Project in Afghanistan are visiting UMass this month.

They are creating a community college network in their native country and visiting community colleges here. They have visited Holyoke Community and Springfield Technical Community colleges and are to visit Bunker Hill and Middlesex Community colleges among others. They depart April 16. 

“There are many security issues,” said Abdul Qayuom Karimzada, vice chancellor at Kabul Polytechnic University and chairperson of the Associate Degree Steering Committee, through interpreter Hassan Aslami. Aslami has worked for the program for seven years and is a graduate student at UMass. Karimzada said if those venturing out to the outer provinces would coordinate with national security forces travel would be more secure.

But he said they prefer to focus on all the positive changes the educational system has experienced. He said in 2001, 1 million people in Afghanistan were enrolled in school. Now that number is 8 million. “We’re trying to educate our society. I don’t like to make it political,” he said. He said he is an educator, not a politician.

But he and Homa Khalid, a senior teaching assistant at Kabul Polytechnic University in the engineering department, are concerned about what happens with NATO forces along with the United States leave next year as planned.

Khalid said she is concerned without the troops they will lose security. She is hoping some will remain otherwise they will lose whatever achievements they have obtained quickly.

Karimzada said they have been forgotten before. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, they stopped providing aid to the Communist leadership at the behest of the United States and other countries.

“We hope this time we should not be forgotten again,” he said.

Mohd Nazir Nejabi, the director of Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, said he believes some will remain after the withdrawal to support the country. But he questions the current strategy.

He said troops are attacking “the branches (of the Taliban) not the root causes.” He believes the roots are in Pakistan. His advice “attack the roots, especially the funding sources.” He said they should be identified and stopped.

The educators, meanwhile, are eager to establish a solid two-year community college system. It will be first established in Kabul and then taken to the outer provinces.

“There is a great need in Afghanistan. The economic conditions are very bad,” Karimzada said. Getting an associate’s degree “is a good chance for people to get jobs very quickly.”

David Evans and Joseph B. Berger from the education school have been involved with the Kabul-based Afghanistan program since 2006. The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding the project that trains Afghan professors to become better teachers.