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 PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – “Out of the 200 to 300 students who graduate their 12th year of school here in Panjshir every year, only two or three of those pass the entrance exam to get into Kabul University,” said Afghan Col. Rajab, Panjshir Provincial Operational Control Center commander. “It’s embarrassing for us, and we can do better.” Colonel Rajab isn’t the only one who thinks so. He is joined in his sentiments by Panjshir Governor Hajji Bahlol, Panjshir Deputy Governor Kabiri, and Bismullah Khan, Panjshir Afghan National Army Chief of Staff. 

Together they contacted a host of Panjshiri businessmen to raise money in order to improve the quality of education in the valley. Since its inception last month, the group has raised more than $70,000, U.S. dollars.

The money will go towards continuing education for teachers in the valley, and provide funds for a three-month tutoring course. These classes will be taught over the winter months while school is not in session, and will prepare graduating students to pass the university entrance exam. 

“Three decades of war have had a negative impact on our economy and education system,” Rajab said. “The teachers are not as qualified as they need to be, but they’re dedicated and this program will help them become better, which will produce better students.”

There are no rules for participation. Tuition to the university in Kabul is free, and the only criteria for admittance are a passing score on the entrance exam and graduation from high school. Any Panjshir student who wishes to attend the university may take part in the entrance exam preparatory course. All materials will be provided, including transportation, food and lodging.

“This program serves as an inspiration. Panjshiris understand that education is the key to a more promising future,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric W. Hommel, Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team commander. “They know that education equals opportunity, and opportunity leads to prosperity and stability. This is how Afghans will defeat the Taliban, by combating ignorance through education."

The idea is not a new one, according to Mr. Roh Ullah Yousufi, Panjshir director of Culture and Information.

“It’s been done before,” Mr. Yousufi said. “There was a similar program about two years ago. But this is the first time the effort has been organized, and now they even have an office where they manage the program.”

When asked what the goal of the program is, that is, how many of the students participating in the program are expected to pass the exam, Colonel Rajab laughed and said, “Why, all of them of course.”


Last Updated on Sunday, 03 January 2010 03:27


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