By Anjali Ojha
New Delhi, (IANS) As Afghanistan engages in rebuilding its educational institutions destroyed by the Taliban, bringing women back into schools and colleges continues to be a challenge, says Afghan Deputy Minister for Academic Affairs M. Osman Babury.
But Babury, who was here for an investment conference, hoped that old ally India will extend Afghanistan a “hand of friendship” to achieve its target of providing quality education to all.
Recalling how Kabul University once used to be among the leading institutions of Asia, he said the entire education system was reduced to shambles by the end of the Taliban’s five-year rule in 2001.
“During the Communist regime, education in Kabul was very good. But now we have just ruins left,” Babury told IANS in an interview.
He said that even though the Kabul University remained open throughout the Taliban regime, most of the good teachers fled the country. It was from then on women went missing from the classrooms.
“The whole infrastructure had collapsed in 2001, most institutions were closed, the outstanding teachers had left the country… and women were totally excluded from education system,” he said.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan September 1996-October 2001.
Babury said efforts to rebuild the entire system have been on since 2001, a mammoth task which was started from scratches, and is still on.
“For the last ten years we have been rebuilding (our institutions). In 2009, the national strategic plan was formulated to improve the quality of education and provide access to all,” he said.
Among the main focus for government is the inclusion of women, left out during the extremist regime.
“Presently, women constitute roughly 19.9 percent of the total enrollments. We aim to take this to 40 percent by 2014,” he said.
While agreeing that a “mental block” was created during the Taliban regime against women’s education, Babury added that a change is sweeping among the people, who want education for their children – both boys and girls.
“Unfortunately, a long period of Taliban rule has effected the mentality. But the Afghans are now extremely keen about educating their children,” he said.
But they face twin problems – of the infrastructure and of areas like the Afghanistan-Pakistan border still witnessing unrest.
“We are still facing certain difficulties in our quest to give education to all. There are two problems, areas along Pakistan border, which are suffering unrest, and secondly, the lack of infrastructure. We are trying to tackle these two problem areas,” Babury said.
One way is to invite foreign universtities to set up their complexes. For this, Afghanistan is looking towards India.
“We are trying to tie up with Indian universities to set up campuses in Afghanistan,” he said, without elaborating.
The government also offers scholarships to Afghan students to study abroad.
“Nearly 5,000-6,000 Afghan students are presently in India studying different courses. India is an excellent place for our students to come,” he said.
The minister added that nearly 600 university teachers were also sent abroad for training.
“The cultural links we two (India and Afghanistan) have make it a comfortable place for our students. And the exchange also strengthenes people-to-people’s relation,” he added.
This year, an the Afghan government allocated $5 million for sponsoring student’s to go abroad for studying.