It seems that with every problem, better education is always (at least partly) the solution.
Today, I went with another American teacher to a discussion about the future of Afghanistan after 2014. Even though nothing too earth-shattering was said, it was interesting to listen to a panel discussion in another language (with headsets that we could listen to translators on, but hey, I recognized a few Slovak words).
The panelists were Andrej Bán, journalist and photographer for týždeň weekly; Sahraa Karimi, filmmaker; Vaughan Smith, war correspondent and founder of Frontline Club London; and Zaher Jaan Zaher, president of the World Afghan Professionals Organization.
All had relatively pessimistic views (which they acknowledged) about the state the country will be in after 2014 (when military troops are set to withdraw). But the bottom line, one of them said, is that none of the local people want a presence from the West.
Karimi said she feared that Afghanistan would be a fashion or trend that people would soon forget about after 2014. Similar to Vietnam, she said.
However, the speakers also said that the war has brought about some positive changes, like better roads and better education (particularly for girls and women).
Improved education, they said, such as teaching more people how to read and write, is one of the best things that can be done in Afghanistan. It is a way to help the Afghans help themselves. If they cannot read the Quran, how can they form their own interpretations of it?
It seems like everything comes back to education. And I am again reminded of how fortunate I’ve been to receive one.
I’m also reminded of how many new learning opportunities (expected and unexpected) are in Slovakia — both for me as a teacher in the classroom and as an observer in the community.