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They no longer have to learn in the dust

Oct 29, 2010

Until couple weeks ago, the pupils here in Pole Qandahari used to learn in the open, sitting on the ground, in the dust, right under the scorching rays of the Afghan sun. Now they are sitting behind school desks in a brand new school that the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) built for them.

Pole Qandahari is the name of a basic and secondary school run in Mohammed Agha district, in Logar province, situated in the South-East of Afghanistan. In some aspects it is not much different from Czech comprehensives – here too younger children will dash around the yard shouting, while the elder will yackety-yak on which teacher is and which is not tough.

Here, however, matching most of the similarities ends. Here in Afghanistan, Pole Qandahari is regarded as an educational institution not exceeding the average. Poorly paid teachers seek to imbue grimy kids with principles of correct reading, writing and arithmetics, and a number of additional advanced skills without ever disposing with an abundance of textbooks, not to mention appropriate conditions.

“When I came over here for the first time, the children were learning out in the open – in front of the school building. They were sitting there, wrapped in woolen chadors, half of them shivering with cold,“Klara Janotova, the civil engineer from the Civil section of PRT, recollects.

They´ve got their own roof and school desks

A couple of months proved sufficient, coupled with the commitment of the Czechs, and students in Pole Qandahari may learn in a decent facility. The Czech PRT managed to construct a new building providing space for altogether sixteen classrooms, cramming in half a thousand of students. Moreover, the existing buildings were repaired.

”So, what we now have got is a school made of bricks and concrete, and in the classrooms you can even find school desks. The main thing nonetheless is that we never again will have to lean in the open,“says Abdul, a 16-year-old when asked how he likes the new facility. ”While winters tended to be freezing, and I would sometimes get sick, now in the summer heat would set in, one simply could not concentrate on anything. The only thing I did appreciate were the breaks – an opportunity for us to go and get chilled at the school-yard well,“ Abdul describes how things used to look like prior reconstruction.

”Rather than building brand new schools on greenfield land, we put effort into refurbishing the existing ones. When coming across kids learning on the floor, in packed classrooms, or even in the open, we are certain that such a school is worth an extension or repair. Children will continue going there and will be moreover facing an improved environment,“ says Matyas Zrno, boss of the Civilian section of the Czech PRT, when clarifying the school repair scheme.

Crowded like on a market place

A week ago, a reconstruction of the school in Darwish, Pol-e Alam district, was completed. Even there the situation for teachers and the kids had been tough prior to the arrival of the Czech PRT. ”It used to look here like a roadside market. Without any area fencing, the school had to tolerate people walking everywhere at their convenience. Apart from being unsafe, the school could easily have become the victim of a terrorist. Moreover, children had to learn in stuffed classrooms, on the floor with nowhere to take a seat,“ Nasim Jan Alimkhail, the school principal, describes the situation before the construction of a new building.

At the moment, the Czech PRT is reconstructing one more school, this one in Azra, the remotest region of Logar province. This project is also close to completion. Once opened, the place in the school desks waiting in the new building will be filled by 240 kids aged between 6 and 16..

”In Afghan terms, the project proceeds relatively smoothly; the only thing we need to fine-tune currently is a couple of unfinished details. Though – at times, clemency needs to be shown pending construction site reviews – quality is required at the same time, as we pay for it. Local companies that are typically hired to join in at least get a chance to learn a lot; in fact, it is a capacity building of some type or another,“adds civil engineer Janotova in reference of the Azra school.

Mechanical and agriculture school – the future of Logar

But it is not only the basic and high schools the Czechs are building in Logar. In cooperation with the Logar government, PRT is now preparing a project of Agriculture and Mechanical High school, one of the first of its type in Afghanistan. It will be the first specialized high school in Logar province and the students there will get a chance to learn advanced procedures in farming and also new technologies. This is crucial since 85 percent of people living in Logar make their living in agriculture.

 

Kristyna Greplova - Civilian Part of PRT

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