Kabul: 8:06 AM      
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.

Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.

Mariam Ghani
Zohra Saed
Massoud Hosseini
Nassima Mustafa
Bibigol Ghani
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Soraia Ghani

Site Comments

Recent stories on primary education challenges (Netaid, HRAC, AFP, Norway Post, Guardian, CNP)
As Millions Return to School in Afghanistan, Challenges Remain 15 April 2004 Netaid
  Girls attend class in Afghanistan The first day of school in Kabul was nothing less than amazing, says Nina Papadopoulos, who worked in Afghanistan from 2000-2003 with the International Rescue Committee. Based in Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province of rural Pakistan, near the Afghan border, Nina ran education programs serving local populations, including thousands of Afghan refugees. A special focus was placed on giving girls the chance to learn. "I focused mostly on primary and secondary education, but also on literacy classes and health education in community-based classes in Pakistan and Afghanistan," she recalls. In the post-Taliban era, non-governmental organizations have been working closely with local groups to rebuild the education system, ushering in more children than small classrooms are equipped to handle. At the start of the new school year this past March, classrooms appeared to burst at the seams as millions of kids arrived for the first day of school. Of special note was that girls—a great number of them—were among those taking part. "All these girls were coming out of the woodwork with their backpacks," says Nina, who is now a Program Officer with the Aga Khan Foundation, a NetAid World Schoolhouse partner. In fact, according to UNICEF, which has joined forces with Afghanistan's Ministry of Education to lead reconstruction of the national education system, girls now account for 35 percent of total primary school enrollment. Overall, in 2003, the number of children in school reached more than 4 million—the highest number in Afghan history. Today's progress seems a long way from the days when families who wanted to educate their daughters were forced to do so "underground" and in secret. But Nina and other education experts agree that significant obstacles must still be overcome to achieve a sound system that provides all children with quality learning. Despite the promising numbers, scratching below the surface reveals that scores of children who arrived for their first day of school faced several challenges to learning: overcrowded classrooms, a lack of educational supplies, and poorly trained teachers without an updated curriculum. "The first school year after the fall of the Taliban, there was a record number of children enrolling in school, which was problematic because there weren't enough schools, books or teachers. The quality of education ended up being very low. Even now, 3 years later, there are schools where there are student/teacher ratios of 50/1, and teachers without effective skills." Nina believes that the government must prioritize bolstering teacher training. "Getting quality teachers—through recruitment and training— is the biggest obstacle to ensuring the success of education. In my opinion, you can have a school anywhere. A building is a building, but a teacher can make a world of a difference in the lives of children. This means teachers have to be paid and continuously supported." As UNICEF and other organizations are building schools and classrooms to accommodate the booming numbers of young students, experts also urge that focus be placed on rural areas, where enrollment rates are still low, and not only on cities like Kabul and Herat. A report released by the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), "Report Card: Progress on Compulsory Education" (PDF file), grades education efforts in Afghanistan on such key areas as enrollment, completion, quality, management and resources. Primary school enrollment rates in cities are as high as 87 percent, while "just a few kilometers outside of these cities" about 50 percent of children are not in school, and overall drop-out rates remain high. Girls face particular challenges in going to school. "There are still plenty of rural areas where communities are reluctant to send their girls to school, especially those that are not close to home. One issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of female teachers. In Afghanistan, it is fine for boys to have a female teacher, but girls are not permitted to attend class led by a male teacher." The Ministry of Education is currently working to remedy several hurdles to strengthening the system. They are revamping outdated curriculum and overhauling the entire education framework which once focused on what Nina calls "war education". While obstacles remain, the strong desire for education among the Afghan people may be the most important factor in ensuring reform continues and is successful. "People in the country really value education in a way that you don't see in places where it is sometimes taken for granted," says Nina, who will be returning to Afghanistan in just a few months. "They place an incredible value on basic education because they directly correlate it with income generation and overall status. At the end of the day, for progress to continue, education has to be based on Afghan values of education—and it will be."

21 Mar 2004 Report card - Progress on compulsory education (grades 1-9) Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium
Education scores "50/100" says NGO Consortium The Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC) released a "school report" today, urging policy makers to work harder to address urgent and long term education needs in Afghanistan. The report card (grades 1-9) recognizes key progress has been made in enrollment and school construction, but finds key gaps in school completion rates, policy management, quality of schooling and resourcing. "Overall, we give policy makers a "50/100" for their work on compulsory education (grades 1-9) since 2001" says Dawn Stallard, HRRAC. "If they are going to improve this grade in future reports, they will need to work harder and commit themselves more fully to giving this generation of children a real chance to be a future force for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan." As donors prepare to meet in Berlin, HRRAC calls on the international community to provide long term funding for education and on the Afghan government to emphasise the quality of education in their plan to achieve their education targets by 2015. Since 2001, Afghanistan has seen the highest enrollment rates in its history with more than 4.3 million children attending primary and secondary school in 2003. Still, more than half of Afghanistan's children don't attend primary school and only 9% make it to secondary school. The picture for girls' education is worse: less then 34% of those enrolled in primary school are girls. In Zabul and Badghis provinces, 99% of girls are not enrolled. Getting children into school is not the only problem. Drop out rates are also very high and particularly so for girls "While some girl's are enrolling in grades 1 and 2, the real challenge is keeping them there" says Mirwais Wardak, Cooperation for Peace and Unity. The number of female teachers is critical to ensure girl's attendance. "Girls are starting school but qualified female teachers aren't there to teach them. For example in Khost Province there is 1 female teacher for every 152 male teachers!" says Dr. Waqfi, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. HRRAC urges the Afghan government and international policy-makers to address the constraints that prevent girls from attending or continuing their education. This includes lack of female teachers, distances to school and the need for older girls to be educated separately from boys. "The success story of education in Afghanistan is too often sold in terms of numbers of schools built and numbers of children in school, but it's not just about the numbers. Huge challenges exist with the quality of education delivered" says Lisa Laumann, Save the Children. The government needs to put more emphasis on raising the quality of teaching and learning. This means continuous support to teachers and setting national standards for educational achievement. In the newly adopted constitution education for all is free and compulsory until 9th grade. This is an ambitious and commendable target, but one that requires strategic and long term resource allocation, yet most donors only provide funding on a one year basis. "There are no quick fixes in education. The education system was on its knees in 2001. It will take sustained support to ensure that all Afghan children can enjoy a quality education" says Sally Austin, Care. About the report With the start of the 2004-2005 school year, we, the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, decided to take stock of the current situation of compulsory education (grades 1 -- 9) in Afghanistan in the form of a school report. Where to get the report The report is available on reliefweb or by directly contacting us at the address below. ABOUT THE CONSORTIUM: The Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium is a group of Afghan and international NGOs working in the fields of humanitarian relief, reconstruction, human and women's rights, peace promotion, research and advocacy. It was established in early 2003 to engage in proactive research and advocacy on human rights issues over a sustained period. The consortium aims to ensure that Afghan voices become an integral and important part of current policy discussions. This project is a unique initiative both for Afghanistan and for other countries emerging from conflict and insecurity. It brings together a group of organizations to systematically promote human rights through ongoing research, training and collective advocacy. Consortium Members Afghan Organisations: • Afghan Development Association • Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission • Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (advisory organisation) • Agency for Rehabilitation and Energy-conservation in Afghanistan • Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (advisory organisation) • Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance • Cooperation for Peace and Unity International Organisations • CARE International • Mercy Corps • Ockenden International • Oxfam International • Rights and Democracy • Save the Children Federation, Inc. To set up interviews with Consortium members, please contact: Dawn Stallard Human Rights Research & Advocacy Consortium 0093 (0) 70 298887

Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned; Taliban Militia Blamed, AFP Says Bloomberg News (Switzerland) (originally appear in Agence France-Presse 4-30)
April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Three schoolgirls were poisoned in southeastern Afghanistan in an incident blamed on the Taliban militia, the country's former rulers, Agence France-Presse said, citing local military and government officials. The girls aged between 10 and 15 are in critical condition after eating biscuits given to them by a man on Wednesday in the town of Khost, AFP cited Shahina Sharif, spokeswoman for the provincial department of Women's Affairs, as saying. The girls attend the only school in Khost that accepts females, AFP said. The Taliban is seeking to ``deter girls from going to school,'' AFP cited Khialbaz Khan, the provincial military commander, as saying. Taliban spokesman Litfullah Hakimi denied the allegation in a statement to AFP from an undisclosed location. Women's activities were restricted under the Taliban regime, ousted in December 2001. The militia's strict interpretation of Islamic law included banning women from working and girls from going to school. Two schools near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan were burned down on Wednesday by suspected Taliban supporters, AFP reported earlier.

Norwegian-built schools in Afghanistan destroyed Norway Post 30. April 2004 by Rolleiv Solholm
The largest girls' school in Kandahar, Northern Afghanistan, financed by Norwegian funds, was destroyed by fire on Thursday. This is only one of several Norwegian-built girls' schools which have been burned down in Afghanistan during the last six months, NRK reports. In Kandahar, a group of men tied up the guard and set fire to the school, which had just been rebuilt, a city official reported. -We look at the torching of these schools as an organized campaign aimed at preventing girls from receiving education, says Astrid Everine Sletten, head of the Afghanistan Committee's office in the country. Her view is shared by other international organizations in Afghanistan Afghan authorities, however, view the incidents as "random terror". -We disagree. Over the past year altogether 600 girls' schools around the country have been wholly or partly destroyed by terrorists, while none of the boys' schools have been touced, Sletten says.

The Guardian (London) May 3, 2004 Girls 'poisoned by militants for going to school' Greg Bearup in Islamabad
Three young girls in eastern Afghanistan were in critical condition in hospital last night after being poisoned, apparently by militants as punishment for attending school. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, said those responsible for the poisonings, in the province of Khost, were less than human. He said the attack had been carried out by terrorists and was the work of foreign elements. "I will not call anyone an Afghan or a Muslim who poisons an eight- year-old child because she is schoolgoing," Karzai said. "They are beasts." Vikram Parekh, from the International Crisis Group, said there had been a series of attacks on girls' schools, particularly in the south of the country, in recent months but this was the first time children had been attacked. "A girl's school was recently burnt to the ground in Kandahar and others have been attacked, but this is a horrible development to see that the girls themselves would be targeted," he told the Guardian. Few details of the incident were available last night, but militants are angry about the Karzai government's reversal of a Taliban ban on female education. Attacks on schools have also taken place in Pakistan's neighbouring North West Frontier Province . More than four million students are enrolled in schools this year - more than ever before - including one-third of the country's girls. But the transition has not been without problems and many conservative families still refuse to send their daughters to school. The poisoning followed a weekend of violence in Afghanistan after US troops killed four people. According to the US military, it launched the attack when one of its convoys was attacked south of Kabul. A US spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Michael DeWerth, said two American soldiers had been injured in the attack. "Four unidentified anti-coalition militia troops were killed, two (militants) were injured and were taken for medical care, and two (militants) were detained," Lt Col DeWerth said. He said the US had used air support to attack the militants, but provided no other details. But Afghan officials disputed this version of events and said those killed had been Afghan police. The provincial police chief, General Haygul Salemankhel, told Associated Press the shooting had taken place because of a mix-up as the convoy approached a police checkpoint under cover of darkness. He said three of his men had been killed and two injured, and that the wounded men were being treated at the nearby US base. "Because of a misunderstanding, they opened fire on each other," Gen Salemankhel said. *An accidental explosion at a gas station has killed at least 25 people in western Afghanistan, the government said. At least another 40 were injured in the blast near Shindand, 360 miles west of Kabul.

May 4, 2004 Sesame Street goes to Kabul without Big Bird: Kuche Sesame: Banjani, Fhirak added to cast to help teach young Afghans by Chris Wattie, writer for the Canadian National Post
The children of war-torn Afghanistan will soon have their own version of Sesame Street, the television program beloved of millions of children around the world. But Kuche Sesame, as the 35-year-old children's classic will be known in Afghanistan's majority language of Dari, will not be the same show seen by eight million preschoolers in the rest of the world. It will have the familiar Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster -- their voices dubbed in Dari -- but Big Bird is replaced by Banjani, a giant green creature with an Islamic cap, and instead of the popular Oscar the Grouch, Afghan children will be entertained by Fhirak, a furry blue know-it-all. "We produced this project with our Afghan partners with local colour, original Afghan music and local names for the Muppets," said Leah Gambal, of Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street. "We wanted the children to be comfortable with the characters and the show." The 10 shows so far produced will be shown mainly in schools or travelling video shows because there are so few television sets in Afghanistan and only intermittent electricity for the homes that have one. And while the producers wanted the shows to be real to Afghan preschoolers, Ms. Gambal said they did not want to go so far as to place Muppets on the bomb-scarred and impoverished streets of most Afghan cities. "We wanted to promote the idea of play -- which is a new and valuable thing to Afghan children," she said. "They have been through a very difficult time because of the political situation. "We wanted to create a space that was fun, friendly and where they could learn ... and not have to think about the world around them." Afghan government officials this week accepted the first of more than 400 educational kits prepared by Sesame Workshop and the Rand Corporation, including tapes of the new show, a teachers' handbook and school supplies. Ms. Gambal said Kuche Sesame is aimed at teaching children the basics. "Even something as basic as a bright, colourful poster of the [Dari] alphabet can be a wonderful tool to promote literacy. "We really want to focus on basic skills, like hygiene: washing your hands." But in Afghanistan, whose education system was all but ruined by the hard-line Islamic rule of the former Taliban regime, even teaching children the basics can be controversial. One of the stars of the show will be Gulabi, a bright pink female Muppet who cannot decide whether to be a pilot, an engineer or a doctor, a potentially explosive concept in a land where Taliban sympathizers still fire-bomb schools that dare to teach girls. "She's a happy, fun Muppet ... but she's really about learning and education," Ms. Gambal said. "We're looking to create positive role models." The Koche Sesame episodes are funded by the Rand Corporation and the government of Qatar. While they are to be broadcast on national television, most of the episodes will be shown in classrooms, at women's centres, orphanages, and in travelling vans that will bring the videos to the country's far-flung rural villages. Sesame Street, which began its 35th season this year, is shown in an estimated 140 countries around the world, from China to South Africa, and has 20 different productions to reflect the widely varied cultures of the kids who watch it. Kuche Sesame is largely an offshoot of the Arabic version of the show, an Egyptian production known as Alam SimSim.
Posted By: mariam   May 10th 2004, 2004 3:22 PM

Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.

www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.