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"Afghanistan needs highly qualified young professionals to support reconstruction"Sultan Mohammad, master's student at the Erfurt School of Public Policy

On the night of 8 to 9 September Sultan Mohammad was killed in northern Afghanistan during a raid to free a kidnapped New York Times journalist. He had spent the summer break in Kunduz and was intending to return to the Erfurt School of Public Policy to resume his studies. The following text and interview with Sultan Mohammad (both from March of this year) bear testimony to his conviction that he was helping to rebuild his country. The Federal Foreign Office mourns Sultan Mohammad.

Learning good governance

Sultan Mohammad from Afghanistan has come to Germany for a master's programme in public policy. At the Erfurt School of Public Policy he, along with 14 other young Afghan leaders, is learning how good governance can succeed. They all share the desire to advance Afghanistan's civil reconstruction.

This goal is also being pursued by the Federal Foreign Office, which has facilitated this programme as part of the Stability Pact for Afghanistan.

Good governance, efficient administrative structures, fighting corruption – these are subjects that Sultan Mohammad will be studying intensively over the next three years. The 32-year-old Afghan is participating in the English-language postgraduate Master of Public Policy programme in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia. Sultan Mohammad and his 14 fellow students from Afghanistan are pioneers: selected from among some 60 applicants with a higher education diploma and relevant professional experience, they are the first group to participate in a unique study project for young Afghan leaders that began at the Erfurt School of Public Policy (ESPP) in December 2008. The training programme is sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office within the framework of the Federal Government's Afghanistan policy, which is the foundation of Germany's strong contribution to the reconstruction of civil society in the country. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was entrusted with the task of implementing the programme and sought out the higher education partner in Germany best suited to the project. DAAD representatives also participated in the selection of students in Kabul.

Improving education and fighting corruption

Sultan Mohammad views the programme in Erfurt as a great opportunity – for his country and for his own career prospects: "Afghanistan needs highly qualified young professionals to support reconstruction," he says. "What I learn in Germany will enable me to contribute to that." Sultan Mohammad studied journalism and then worked in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, for the International Committee of the Red Cross and as reporter and translator for the New York Times – always under difficult conditions: "I have hardly experienced real periods of peace. I was born during war, lived in war and studied in war." In Erfurt, he says, he can now concentrate fully on his education. European policy, international relations and management are the subjects that particularly interest him.

Strategies for finding solutions in conflict regions

The master's programme at the ESPP, which is part of the University of Erfurt, is principally oriented towards students from outside of Germany and places special emphasis on international conflict management. "The students from Afghanistan should later be able to directly apply the methodological and analytical tools they learned," says Professor Dietmar Herz, ESPP's director, speaking about the goals of the study programme. "They learn, for example, how an administration can deal with corruption or drug problems and about different strategies for finding solutions." These are important insights that can contribute to stabilization in the young democracy.

The programme consists of a preparatory year and the two-year English-language Master of Public Policy. During the master's course, the Afghans study with students from all over the world and discuss political, economic and public administration questions – from foreign policy analysis and development cooperation to international trade relations. Professor Herz also sees the study programme as a two-way learning process: "The participants from Afghanistan become familiar with a very different political system. This helps the future Afghan elite to better understand western/European policy. And the contact makes it easier for us in Germany to better understand Afghan policy." 

Diverse career prospects

The master's degree from Erfurt opens up very different career prospects for the 25- to 35-year-old Afghans, many of whom have already held demanding positions. Sultan Mohammad's compatriot Quhramaana Kakar, 26 years old and the only woman in the group, already has a master's degree in economics and worked for the United Nations in Kabul: "I have decided to work for education and women's rights," she says about her future plans. Mohammad Hossain Torabi, who previously worked in banking, is attracted to higher education. "I want to work as a lecturer because many universities lack highly qualified teaching staff." The 26-year-old student is impressed by the study environment in Erfurt. He appreciates not only the high academic standards, but also how sociable his fellow students are. Erfurt, he says, is "small, quiet and attractive".

Studying for a better future

Sultan Mohammed is also very interested in education. He explains that some 80% of Afghans are illiterate and many of his fellow countrymen have no real training – problems which he believes certainly help explain the difficult situation in his country. In Erfurt Sultan Mohammad wants to prepare for a future career in education – for example, in the education ministry or at the municipal level. He is sure he will succeed in achieving that in Erfurt: "The town, the university and the programme are inspiring surroundings for learning." However, it is also very clear to him that he will return home after the course. That is where his wife and two-year-old son are waiting for him – and where he can fulfil his great hope of making a contribution to Afghanistan's future.

Text: Oliver Sefrin 

"12 Worlds of Knowledge" is realized in cooperation with the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)


Last updated 03.05.2011

Sultan Mohammad

"Afghanistan needs highly qualified young professionals to support reconstruction"

Sultan Mohammad, master's student at the Erfurt School of Public Policy

Professor Dietmar Herz, Direktor der Erfurt School of Public Policy in der Bibliothek der Universität Erfurt

More information on the Master of Public Policy Program of the University of Erfurt...