More rain has meant muddy, flooded streets, but also much less dust blackening the inside of my nose today! Its nice to not blow your nose and have a half gallon of coal like dust come out with the requisite snot! Ironically the rains coincided with the adventure-du-jour in the form of 3 car breakdowns with my driver today – so multiple taxi rides (my first in this country due to the ease of kidnapping foreigners!).
More ironic still is that despite the fact that taxis are avoided, I spend each evening riding a motorbike around Kabul. There is a safe driving service, but I’d prefer to be on the back of a motorbike! The bikes sneak in between traffic better than any car and while I do attract attention, its much more maneuverable. Yet the muddy streets mean I often arrive at my destination happy, but looking a bit worse for the wear. Case in point, a meeting at the Serena Hotel with a group of journalists where I arrived with a serious layer of grime that I had to remove in the hotel lobby restroom with a handtowel and some water!
In between car repair attempts, Najibullah and I had lunch at the Rose in the Karte Se district. We eat here quite regularly, its decent Afghan food and usually we order lamb kebabs, yogurt, rice, and flat bread. Delicious! We usually eat behind the curtain in the mixed area while the men sprawl out across the tables in the front of the restaurant. There are always some random leftovers and these are packed into a container and given to one of the streetchildren outside. Every time we leave the Rose we are assaulted by beggars and this trip I’ve realized that these children have their particular turf. There are two young boys that I see regularly enough that they smile broadly when we arrive, greetings are exchanged with clasped hands and the boys know that when we come out they’ll be getting a snack, a coin or two, and now a photo op. Each visit they ask me to take their photo, which I’m thrilled to do and then show them their shot on the little screen.
After lunch, I met with a female parliamentary member representing the southern province of Khost, not one of the safest these days. A former teacher, she now sits on the education committee which oversees the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education. We discussed the overall state of education in Afghanistan and her thoughts on its progress and its future. Upon learning that I would be interested in working in the southern and extreme northern Afghan provinces that have little to no funding due to remoteness and poor security, she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. An invitation to join her in Khost to meet with the council members and provincial educators in hopes that we can find a safe way to focus on girls education there.
During my previous visit, I met with two other female mp’s and while each is radically different in their demeanor; one mother, one warrior, and one new friend. Each is fighting for education in Afghanistan and will get behind anyone who is serious about helping further education. They all agree that the situation is improving throughout most of the country, but that the process is hindered by lack of funding and a lack of quality teachers. Long term, teacher training is key as more and more facilities replace those lost in the recent conflicts.
There are multiple ways for an organization like ours to step in to the area, small and large. Science labs and computer labs are practically non existent since the Taliban years. Secondary and high schools are needed in many provinces. Alternative education and literacy programs are a low cost option to reach many women and children that fall through the cracks. School facilities are still needed, but teacher training to improve the quality of education is the most immediate long term need to improve overall Afghan education standards.
So as the rain continues to bring relief from the years of drought, it is my hope that M2M can do the same for the state of education in Afghanistan. Creating small inroads towards a longterm solution.