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.”