First Graduates of Shaheed Mirranay Education Center

Nov 28, 2011   //   by Hameed   //   Children in Conflict, Human Rights, Peace, Poverty  //  1 Comment

Sha­heed Mir­ranay com­puter and Eng­lish lan­guage cen­ter was built in April 2011. It’s located in South­west of Jalal­abad city– one hour drive from Jalal­abad city. Together with my team I set up it’s solar power sys­tem and the com­puter lab. We installed five com­put­ers and a printer, four solar pan­els with a power inverter, and four car bat­ter­ies. The solar power sys­tem gen­er­ated enough power to run the five energy effi­cient lap­tops for six months sev­eral hours every­day (After six months, two of the four bat­ter­ies stopped work­ing now and they are plan­ning to replace them soon).

The train­ing cen­ter recruited many poten­tial stu­dents and selected 317 of them in 18 dif­fer­ent level com­puter and Eng­lish lan­guage classes when it started. With four Eng­lish lan­guage teach­ers and two com­puter train­ers it is open 6 days a week for 8 hours each day. The cen­ter has a gen­eral man­ager and two guards. Seven months after its start, Sha­heed Mir­ranay Eng­lish lan­guage and com­puter cen­ter is award­ing cer­tifi­cates to its 300 grad­u­ates: 110 stu­dents will be awarded cer­tifi­cates in basic com­puter skills and 190 stu­dents will receive cer­tifi­cates in inter­me­di­ate Eng­lish lan­guage use. I was vis­it­ing the train­ing cen­ter last week and all the teach­ers were busy putting fin­ish­ing touches to their stu­dents’ cer­tifi­cates. They’ve already started recruit­ing new stu­dents for their upcom­ing classes.

When I was vis­it­ing this cen­ter in Sep­tem­ber, all these lit­tle kids seemed very sad because they had been told that the cen­ter would close down that month because there were no more funds for it. How­ever, they were able to keep it run­ning and keep it funded some­how. This time, the stu­dents looked way hap­pier. They didn’t have to worry about the closure.

Com­pared to the rest of Nan­garhar province, Khogyani has the most Tal­iban and insur­gents. Going there, I drove through sev­eral bomb craters on the road that had tar­geted Inter­na­tional Secu­rity Assis­tance Force (ISAF) and Afghan National Army (ANA). Tal­iban and other insur­gents exploit teenagers and lit­tle chil­dren by giv­ing them a bomb to plant on the road. They give them $15 for each bomb they plant. The day before my visit, two US army tanks had been blown up by an Impro­vised Explo­sive Device (IED) on the road in the nearby area of Mimla. Two teenagers that were plant­ing a bomb on the road were killed in an airstrike that day.These kids don’t know any­thing about bombs and ammu­ni­tion. Some­times, they get killed due to pre­ma­ture detonation.

Besides insur­gency, peo­ple also grow poppy on a very large scale in this area. Under the Tal­iban, their num­ber one income was from grow­ing poppy. It’s still grown here. When I was there, I saw that the dis­trict prison was full of detainees who had been cap­tured for grow­ing poppy or for their involve­ment in other insur­gent activ­i­ties. The dis­trict gov­ern­ment was redi­rect­ing detainees to other pris­ons in the country.

Photo credit: Najib Bismil

In an area like this which is infested with the Tal­iban and other insur­gent groups, an edu­ca­tional insti­tute plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in edu­cat­ing the next gen­er­a­tion and pro­vid­ing them with the right tools and skills needed to serve their coun­try. They will have a brighter future than that of their ances­tors, a decent job and a more sus­tain­able income to sup­port their fam­i­lies. When I was vis­it­ing this edu­ca­tion cen­ter two months ago, one of the stu­dents told me, “I want to learn com­puter and Eng­lish lan­guage to work with an inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion and help build my country.”