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Education as a part of society-building in Afghanistan – by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper

06.05.2011 - Interview

published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on 6 May 2011

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“Investing in people’s minds is the best policy of democratization and human rights, and at the same time the most effective way to combat terrorism.” I remain convinced of this statement, and I would like to take this opportunity to respond to an article by Tom Koenigs that appeared on these pages. Following his travels in Afghanistan, Mr Koenigs criticized Germany’s engagement with educational development in Afghanistan.

To preface: our commitment to the educational development of Afghanistan is a central part of Germany’s Afghanistan strategy. We will, however, only be able to achieve success in the field of education when the environment has been stabilized and militants have been reintegrated.

The support that Germany has traditionally provided to Afghan secondary schools remains a cornerstone to building the Afghan educational system. Continuing to take care of the three secondary schools that we have traditionally supported in Kabul is the right thing to do. In recent years, support for these schools has levelled off at nearly one million euro per year.

In our cooperation with our Afghan partners, we follow the principle of Afghan ownership. This means that all three of the schools we support operate under Afghan administration. These schools remain among the very best in Afghanistan. We also view it as our responsibility to continue to bolster German language offerings at these schools. Seven teachers and one expert advisor from the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) have been on site since 2002, contributing their excellent work to the achievement of this goal. They also provide further training to Afghan teachers from 17 state schools in various parts of the country. Alongside the advancement of the Afghan educational elite, emphasis is also placed on the improvement of broader-based education in the Afghan provinces.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has since 2002 played a leading role in developing German-Afghan relations in higher education. Under sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances, a DAAD coordinator in Kabul is working as an interface between German and Afghan universities. Thanks to the successful advisory work of the DAAD Coordination Office, nearly 1000 Afghan students and graduates have received scholarships to continue their education since the resumption of the DAAD’s work in 2002.

In building up the academic sector in Afghanistan, we focus on the areas of information technology, good governance in Afghanistan and economic sciences. This year 2.8 million euro are available to the DAAD for the continuation of these programmes. A college of administration, which is of tremendous importance for Afghanistan, is also being established. At the college Afghan leaders are trained for administrative tasks, not least in the area of human rights. By providing support to a master’s programme for Afghan lawyers which was designed by the Max Planck Institute, we are placing a strong emphasis on our commitment to human rights education.

There is always more to be done. But we are relying on Afghan society’s absorptive capacity and on Afghan ownership. We want our Afghan partners to be active participants in educational processes. In the near future we would like them to carry on the projects that have been initiated themselves.

The Goethe-Institut, a renowned partner in the area of education and cultural relations, is doing important educational work in Kabul. The German language is being promoted in language courses throughout the country. A total of 8800 among Afghanistan’s seven million school pupils – a considerable figure – are now learning German.

Our engagement with the Afghan educational sector is multifaceted and oriented towards actual needs. The value of our commitment is not to be underestimated: along with building primary schools and supporting secondary schools and higher education, we place great value on integrating educational components into the projects that are carried out. Germany’s contribution to the Afghan educational sector also includes Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) measures targeting the primary school and vocational training areas. The international commitment to educational development in Afghanistan, in which Germany plays a vital role, gives reason to hope that the current trend will continue: whereas a million boys attended Afghan schools in 2001, a decade later more than seven million girls and boys are learning in the classrooms of Afghanistan.

The German Government has made clear its determination to strengthen civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan. This commitment especially includes the field of education. There will certainly be setbacks, but in the long term our efforts on behalf of Afghan society and of German-Afghan relations will pay off.

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