Marga Flader and Friedrich Dahlhaus:

Our visit to Afghanistan in Autumn 2014

Moin, dear Friends!

Our colleagues in Kabul and Andkhoi are very interested in languages. They are fluent in English and ask about German expressions. That's why, one day we replied to their long polite greetings with the short “moin” used in Northern Germany – to the general amusement of everyone.

This visit started – differently from previous ones – in the north of Afghanistan. For some years now, there have been direct flights from Istanbul to Mazar-e-Sharif. We visited some of the schools we previously built in this growing city and some new ones where students are still taught under torn canvas. The representatives of the German Foreign Office and the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development were moved to see the children studying under these conditions and surprised that the lessons were going so well despite the difficult surroundings.  

The most remarkable progress in our projects since our last visit in spring was to be seen in our new Women’s Centre Andkhoi (WCA). In rooms next to our education centre (EC) where we trained electricians until last year we saw four ladies busily at work. Another 36 young women and their teachers come for two days every week to learn how to use electric sewing and embroidery machines. So far, there is not enough space, but soon the new big showroom, toilets and kitchen will be ready.

Early in the New Year, the women’s centre should have enough space for tailoring, for selling and buying as well as a meeting place for chats. We are hoping that adjacent land will be made available for setting up a women’s garden and a playground for the children. The district governor has promised to support the idea.

One topic we are very interested in are nursery schools. Women who are working as teachers need a place where their children are looked after while they are at work.

Last year we opened one kindergarten in Mazar, now we have also one in Andkhoi and soon there will be another one in Mazar. We prepared the rooms in accordance with our experience at home: colours, furniture, playing areas designed to enable the children to learn while they are playing. However, this is not how a kindergarten seems to function in Afghanistan. There, the children are “students” right from the start. During our visit, we talked to the (new) kindergarten teachers to show them what we had meant with our plans. We are hoping to continue the process of change by offering training for them, assisted by other NGOs who are working in Afghanistan in this field. 

The people of the Andkhoi area belong to the Turkmen and Uzbek minorities who speak their mother tongue at home. As we wish our students to have the best opportunities for their education and future life, we insist that Dari (Persian) is spoken in all our courses. Dari and Pashtu are the most important languages spoken in Afghanistan. Since Dari lessons were dropped from the state school curriculum to make room for other new subjects, we have added another Dari lesson to the classes at our EC (we are offering preparatory courses to students from grade 7 to help them pass the entry exam for university and to gain better higher education).

As the supply of energy from Turkmenistan has deteriorated continuously and we also wish to introduce environmental awareness in our Education Centre, we wondered if it would be a good idea to install solar panels in our EC. We were worried, however, that implementing it from our side might mean starting the project from the wrong end because the initiative should come from the people who would use it. In our working circle in Germany, a group had formed which supplied us with information and enthusiasm. When we discussed the topic in the courses and in meetings with the students’ representatives and their teachers, we found that, while they do understand what we are talking about, there is not much interest to take the consequences. That made us think: Would callers from other parts of the world have found open ears in Germany if they had started talking about protecting the environment during the war or immediately after? We were happy that in the end we found a teacher who will look for interested students to start ecology groups. First ideas have been born: solar lamps illuminating the grounds of the EC, planting and taking care of trees next spring etc. We are only at the very beginning of this project and can only hope that it will gain importance locally.

For some years, it has become increasingly clear how important teacher training is for Afghanistan, and we have implemented different ideas in this field. We have sent teachers to courses for further training, we have organized seminars during the school holidays and let younger teachers learn from experienced ones by sending assistant teachers into some of our courses. Now we have taken a further step: The Teacher Training College in Andkhoi is based in a terrible building which was totally unsuitable. During this trip, we were able to visit the construction site on the outskirts of Andkhoi for a new Teacher Training College. The trenches for the foundation had already been dug. A guard house and a water reservoir will also be built. This is our biggest construction project up to now. 

During our stay in Afghanistan we met people working for other NGOs and government offices who like us work for better development in Afghanistan and have a great number of supportive staff and considerable amounts of financial resources available to them. They were very curious to learn how our organisation works. It seemed unusual that behind the committee which supports a commendable network of educational facilities run by a competent team in Afghanistan, there is only a small group of volunteers in Germany. Most of the NGOs working in Afghanistan do it differently. Sometimes during this trip we felt like patting our shoulders but this did not last long. Everywhere there were voices calling us to continue working. Our efforts are certainly worthwhile. For further information please see our homepage or facebook.

Please continue to support us so that we can continue our work. Right now we are hoping for support for our next winter help project. During the next cold months, we want to supply food (flour, rice and oil) to 200 families in one of the poorest camps in Kabul and children’s clothes which are currently being made in our women’s centre in Andkhoi. Furthermore, we also need help for another school construction project. We cannot stop thinking about the many kids who study in tents during wind and storm.

With best regards and thanks to all who are supporting our project,

Marga Flader              Friedrich Dahlhaus

Account for Donations for Afghanistan-Schulen:

Bank: Hamburger Sparkasse, Adolphsplatz, 20454 Hamburg / Germany, BIC HASPDEHHXXX, IBAN DE37 2005 0550 1008 2258 05