Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beyond the Barbed Wire

A "Raiders" fan in the heart of Kabul
Students at Kabul Education University working in the new Student Access Center; an English Library.
Palestinian dress, Kabul garden. Jaala enjoying the afternoon beyond the barbed wire.

Kabul: Beyond the Barbed Wire

 Kabul is a place full of contradictions. It is a land framed by barbed wire, filled with security forces, police, guards and guns; littered with trash and poverty, dusty from deforestation. Widows and homeless men beg in the streets, poor children sell tissues and ask for money as they wave incense in front of cars to ward off the "evil eye." Students rush through traffic to make it to run-down schools, most lacking libraries, computer labs, books, even running water. Sheep and their herders weave in and out of cars blocking the motorcade full of hummers rushing to get to their next base. Boys play soccer among the ruins of Darulaman Palace; girls cook at home, behind the protective compound walls.

But beyond the obvious police state, beyond the poverty and dust lies the most important things which cannot be seen upon first glance. Working beyond the barbed wire, the educated, the critical thinkers, the youth, the people who yearn and work for freedom and economic development are laying the ground work for a better reality. Beyond the gray skies and polluted water, there are clean ornamental gardens and thriving farms. Beyond the homelessness and abuse, there are non-profits, schools, and businesses run by Afghans who are all trying their best to educate the youth and give people a chance to become players in their own lives.

Being here for the third time in two years, I can see that although contradictions exist, my Afghan friends and colleagues are working hard to stamp out the negatives that pervade daily life. My former students and colleagues at Kabul Education University are a great example of this.

Two of my senior students from last year have obtained jobs in their own English Department as professors. They are trying their best to use new teaching methods; to be good examples for the pre-service teachers and students from other departments whom they are currently teaching.

Four more of my former students are going in to the final round of the Fulbright Scholarship process; they are all trying to go to the United States for two years to study for master's degrees in Education or Teaching English so that they can bring back the knowledge that they have learned and further educate their students here.

Many of the professors in the English Department at Kabul Education University have become involved in the first ever Master's degree program in TESOL (in Afghanistan), taught in English. Four of the professors are students in the program while many others are professors in the program. They all know that the more knowledge in their field they can obtain, the more effective they will be in making the education system better in Afghanistan. The current department head said it best, "Facilities can be blown up, computers can fail, paint can peel off, but the knowledge our students and teachers are getting can never be taken away."

Though the first thing that you see when you land in Kabul, Afghanistan is barbed wire wrapped around a dusty military complex, what you don't see beyond the barbed wire is what is most important. Each day, international civilians and military members work to re-build Afghanistan from the ground up. They do this by offering training to Afghans who can then extend their knowledge to others; this is the most valuable action being taken in the country.

Happy teachers ready to spread some knowledge at KEU
Beyond the barbed wire the situation is improving; hopefully one day the walls and wire will come down, so the view of this promising country will not be obscured any longer.