Four years ago in February I took the Kankor Exam, the university entrance exam in Afghanistan. Kankor is like the American SAT. It is developed and scored by the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) of Afghanistan. Kankor includes questions about the several subjects we study in high school (mathematics, physics, chemistry, languages, geography, history and Islamic studies) and it normally takes three and a half hours. That year (2007) more than 80000 students took the exam and less than 2000 students were accepted in state universities all over the country [m: state universities in Afghanistan are free of any charge and less corrupt than private universities]. My first choice out of the 10 different fields that one can choose on the Kankor was English Literature. Actually, I wanted to study International Development with the special focus on business and livelihood development.
After a lot of research I realized that no university in Afghanistan offered a degree in that field. So after taking the Kankor I was accepted in my favorite program in Nangarhar University. This English language degree program that I studied in was funded by the World Bank and Nangarhar University worked in partnership with San Diego State University. Our curriculum was developed by SDSU. After I got into the program I started to grow fonder of it. I studied hard at school and worked part-time. Ever since I was in 9th grade I have always combined school with work: a) because I needed to support myself and my family financially as my father who would usually brought the bacon home was suffering from a heart attack b) because I wanted to gain work experience together with formal studies at school. Majoring in English in school and working with international organizations at a young age provided me with the privilege of knowing a lot of Americans and other internationals. In the last few years, I worked with a number of international and national organizations in Afghanistan and I made sure that I did well in school.
When I graduated from university last month I got three different job offers: 1) from the English department of my own university to teach at university level as a professor 2) from USAID in the capital Kabul as a field officer for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) to collect gps data of malfunctioning wells in Afghanistan and help to try and fix them 3) from a close friend who has a construction company to work with him as an administrative assistant.
I pondered a lot about what I wanted to do for the coming two or three years. After vacillating between choices, I decided to open my own technology development company and offer my service to my people through that. Luckily, I had smart and tech savvy friends that I hired to work together with me in my consultant business. We are a group of about eight people and we train people to use technology in their development projects in Afghanistan. We have a nickname ‘Geek Squad’. We recently hired ten interns from Nangarhar University that we are training right now in using gps, GIS and other map editing programs and OpenStreetMap. After a couple of weeks all these interns will be ready to embark on collecting gps tracks and edit the map of Nangarhar province many of its districts.
I plan to work for a couple of more years in Afghanistan gain more experience and then pursue a master’s degree in international development abroad, ideally in the United States.