IEE Newsletter No. 20

Cooperation with Afghanistan: A hope, a journey and prosperity

An Afghan lecturer returning for the MSc course in Management and Economics programme talks about his experiences with our Afghanistan programme.

It is a widely accepted fact that education is an important element contributing to the development of post-war societies such as Afghanistan. Moreover, it is the basis for social and economic development as well as a road to democracy, prosperity and peace. The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once said that "War doesn't determine who is right – only who is left". And it is true, Afghanistan was left with nothing but ruins. During the past three decades of war the education sector was strongly affected and impaired by the developments and the country was left with a generation of young Afghans with very little to no literacy at all. The literate ones had already fled the country even at beginning of the unfortunate war; the few who remained only witnessed the country falling apart and the harsh consequences of the never-ending conflict. Yes, it is true that we lost most of what we had, but we did not lose the one and only important thing. And that thing is hope, the hope that someday Afghanistan will be stable, peaceful and prosperous. But this does not just happen by itself, unless someone takes a stand and makes it happen. This marks the beginning of my journey towards building my own knowledge and helping others build their own.

The wish to contribute to the development of Afghanistan

It was in the second year of my job with the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), when I decided that I needed more effective results from my efforts to contribute to the development of my country than what I had obtained from my work for AISA. Therefore, I quit my job at AISA and applied for a job as a lecturer at Kandahar University, because that was the place where I thought I would make a real difference. After the required screening process the university accepted me as a member of their academic workforce.

Start of the lecturer training programme

It was in 2009 when I was enrolled by the Faculty of Economics at Kandahar University in the lecturer training programme set up by the IEE with the cooperation of the DAAD, the World Bank and the Afghan Higher Education Ministry. The lecturer's training programme lasted from 21 August 2009 to 27 September 2010. 18 lecturers (including myself) from different public universities in Afghanistan participated in and successfully completed the programme. The idea behind the lecturer training programme was to upgrade the knowledge base and teaching skills of Afghan lecturers and to prepare them for an international Master's degree programme in Management and Economics at the Ruhr University Bochum. Moreover, the programme was also intended to bring about an updating process of the current curriculum being taught at Afghan universities to an internationally recognised standard which will not only meet the rising demand for high-quality tertiary education domestically, but will also enable BA-graduates to pursue their master's and doctoral studies abroad. The programme also addressed the need for the provision of teaching and learning materials for the academic staff and for students alike. To further enrich the resources available in the country's two national languages (Pashto and Dari) the IEE organised a project within the framework of the lecturer training programme to translate books of core economic subjects from English into the Afghan national languages. The translation task was carried out by the Afghan lecturers.

Memorable Experiences in Germany

Beside our studies we had some great and memorable experiences during our twelve-month stay in Germany. We had the opportunity to get to know about the German people, their culture, their way of living and their history. We paid visits to some great museums and important German cities; for instance the IEE with the cooperation of German Ministry of Defense organised a day tour to the city of Bonn where we visited the German Ministry of Defense and the German National Museum. During this tour we not only learned more about Germany and the German history, we also enjoyed meeting and chatting with officials of the German Ministry of Defense. During our study programme we also had the honor to meet his Excellency Mr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Higher Education in the federal state of NRW, who warmly welcomed us to Germany and showed a keen interest in and was very supportive of the programme. He assured us of continued assistance and cooperation in these regards. Likewise we had plenty of memorable moments and unique experiences that we have gone through in our one-year stay in Germany which will always remind us of the pleasant time we spent here.

Returning to Afghanistan

Finally, the days came when we had successfully completed our programme and were ready to return back to our country to actually make use of what we had learned and experienced. Saying farewell to the RUB and Bochum was not an easy thing to do as we were very much attached to this university and the city to the extent that I felt like I had known this place for years and that I was brought up here. But I knew that I was doing this for a greater cause and that I would get over these feelings, but keep those precious moments of my life safe in my heart and mind.
It was in October 2010 when I packed my bags and said farewell to Germany and flew back to Afghanistan and then to Kandahar. I returned back to my normal life and to my usual job as a lecturer at Kandahar University, but this time with much greater knowledge, confidence and many more resources. I actively took part in the revision of our curriculum and in directing students towards the use of the books that had been translated by the lecturers in Germany. About 11 books of core economic subjects translated into our two local languages were made available to our students in the library. I also felt that my teaching skills had improved due to the positive feedback from my students.
The Faculty of Economics at Kandahar University experienced quite a substantial improvement in performance and resourcefulness after the return in 2013 of the three well-trained and highly qualified academic staff from the Ruhr University of Bochum who now held a Master's degree in Economics and Management. They now hold key positions in the faculty as Dean (Mr. Mohammad Hasham Daqiq), Deputy Dean (Mr. Kwaja Mohammad Ahmadzi) and Head of Department (Mr. Safiullah Samoon).

Back in Bochum for the Master's degree programme

Having worked for three years at Kandahar University I am back again at Ruhr University Bochum now for my Master's degree programme, this time with greater expectations, the eagerness to learn more and the hope to achieve greater success. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you and express appreciation for the efforts of the IEE, the DAAD, the Ministry of Higher Education in NRW, the Ministry of Higher Education in Afghanistan, the World Bank and other stakeholders for making all this possible. Wish me a good luck.

Ahmad Wali Popal

by Ahmad Wali Popal

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