Proposed Work

Healthcare Units in Rural Afghanistan

This is a proposal to work with partners in international aid agencies, non-governmental organizations, government bodies, and, above all, with communities in Afghanistan to establish a network of mutually supportive multipurpose healthcare units.  The aim is to contribute simultaneously to peace-building, improved health and safety, rapid rural reconstruction and local economic development.

The proposed system of units would help to link and coordinate the activities of humanitarian and development agencies active in Afghanistan by offering a secure common venue for all to use.  This would accommodate and facilitate a wide variety of programs: primary health; youth and adult education; maternal education and support; and aid to persons with disabilities, the elderly, etc.

Over time, the units would become financially self-sustaining based on a combination of facility rentals and user fees, sales of crop production from gardens, sales of telecommunications services, etc.  From day one, the plan would be to have the units engage local residents through donations of land, labour and materials, and also through a governing structure that represents all prospective users in the community.  Each of the units must begin with a business model that dramatically reduces the risks that operations will cease as sources of international aid dry up.

The system of units would be used as training centres to transfer new building technologies and more self-sustainable methods of providing site services such as electricity, water, and waste disposal.  These new methods would serve as a basis for entrepreneurial micro-enterprises that would create local industries for rapid and disaster-resistant ways of constructing homes, shops, and other small low-cost structures in the surrounding area.

The equipment used for production would be owned initially by Partnership Afghanistan Canada (PAC) and its affiliated institutions and would be used in turn to generate sales revenues that would improve the local economy and turn the units into self-sustainable entities.

This brief is being used to invite further comment.  The principals of PAC firstly want to complement not to compete with any larger plans by institutions for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At the same time, they feel a strong sense of urgency to act given the many people who die daily of preventable diseases, landmines and leftover weaponry.  A lack of hope arising from tangible improvements in such basic living conditions is a corrosive force that can lead to renewed violence.

Training Teachers of Early Childhood Education in Kandahar

The proposed project is a sustainable “train the trainers” initiative designed specifically for implementation with educators in Afghanistan. Upon completion of the project, the authorities in Kandahar have committed resources and space for hiring the trained ECE faculty and the establishment of an ECE program within an ongoing academic program. With minimal resources and time, this project would provide ongoing ECE teacher training and education for adults who wish to work with the young children of Afghanistan.

Background

Since 2002, the Islamic Government of Afghanistan has been able to send 5-6 million children back to school. However, in the area of ECE, no progress has been made to date. This is largely due to an absence of ECE educators in the country who could be trained to set up programs for children in communities throughout Afghanistan.

Prior to the years of conflict in Afghanistan, the educational system was rather comprehensive, offering ECE, as well as elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education.  More specifically, in the late 1940s, the first childcare centre was opened, together with an organization called “Mousese Neswan” that facilitated literacy among women in Afghanistan. Only married women could join this high school-level program. Given it being targeted towards married women, day care facilities were needed to support those with children.

In the late 1950s, several daycare centres with contemporary curriculum were opened in Kabul. The idea of preschool education also gained acceptance.  Many girls’ schools had preschool programs to facilitate working conditions for their primarily female employees. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Government of Afghanistan actively promoted preschool education, and consequently, many day care centres were opened.

However, over the past thirty years nearly all of the educational institutions around the country have been stripped of their assets. Communities have been left only with buildings, many of them damaged, destroyed or in need of major rehabilitation.  Teachers are, for the most part, undereducated and lack experience in modern pedagogical methods.  Curriculum and learning resources are either non-existent or unsuitable for facing the economic and social problems of the country.

Yet there continues to exist in Afghanistan an appreciation of the importance of restoring the educational system and a commitment to strengthening its links with and impacts on local communities.  Educational institutions such as Kabul University and the Kabul Pedagogical Academy have had small ECE programs in their mandates but have lacked the resources to devote specific faculty to ECE programs.  Moreover, they lack the latest teaching methods, supportive curriculum, and materials for children to use.

Current research in child development stresses the importance of early years as the optimum time for the development of fundamental orientations and skills in physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional domains. Moreover, what occurs during those years can have life-long effects.  This is why the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that preschool children should have first priority for a nation’s resources. Training of ECE educators is vital to a country undergoing reconstruction like Afghanistan.  Today, the focus of early childhood programs has expanded from a primary focus on the child to include parents and more recently the entire family. Such an approach can contribute to the overall well-being and health of families.

The role and importance of ECE to society at large is also recognized in educational circles. It is well known that children are the products of their society as well as their individual upbringing. In order to build a peaceful and productive Afghanistan, it is essential to provide a safe, secure and nurturing environment for Afghan children.  Sustained investment in the improvement of both the quality of education for young children and increased access to it for parents should lead to enhanced national economic development and increased family incomes.

It may be argued that for some children—particularly those who have lost one or both of their parents as well as those of lower socio-economic status—a sophisticated preschool program may look like an extravagance. However, it is important to understand that living conditions are improving for most Afghans on a daily basis. Preschool education is a necessity for Afghan women and the children themselves to join the labour force. Nursery schools and pre-schools can increasingly be afforded by a segment of the population, and public funding for such institutions is likely to be put in place over time.

Project Description and Location

The proposed project is a sustainable “train the trainers” initiative designed specifically for implementation with educators in Afghanistan. Upon completion of the project, the authorities in Kandahar have committed resources and space for hiring the trained ECE faculty and the establishment of an ECE program within an ongoing academic program. With minimal resources and time, this project would provide ongoing ECE teacher training and education for adults who wish to work with the young children of Afghanistan.

In Kandahar, the proposed partner is the Faculty of Education of Kandahar University.  The Afghanistan-based activities would take place within the City of Kandahar for security reasons and also to take full advantage of the facilities available there, including periodic contact with the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team. Within Canada, the proposed project would be based in Vancouver as a collaborative venture among the University of British Columbia, Douglas College, and Partnership Afghanistan Canada.

The proposed schedule for the project is an initial orientation and curriculum development phase of about five months, followed by two years of implementation.  During the first year of the project, ECE faculty from Canada would work with a select group of faculty from Kandahar University and local non-governmental organizations, introducing them to ECE.  Within Canada, a team would also be continuing to work on the development of educational materials based on contributions from Afghanistan as well as other sources. During the second year, a select number of Kandahar University faculty would be chosen to continue their professional development in ECE in Canada. These individuals would then return to Kandahar and establish a Department of Early Childhood Education and begin training early childhood educators in substantial numbers.

The ECE curriculum and resource materials in Pashto and Dari would be further developed and refined through field trials in collaboration with Canadian educators, Afghan community members and project participants.  The aim would be to ensure that it reflects and is sensitive to Afghan culture and values. This ECE curriculum would then be implemented by Kandahar University Faculty of Education ECE staff after their two year training period.