New Computer lab in Khogyani

Sep 3, 2011   //   by Hameed   //   Uncategorized  //  4 Comments

About five months ago, my col­league, Noor and I set up a com­put­er and Eng­lish lan­guage train­ing lab in Kaga, Khogyani. Kaga is about 35 kilo­me­ters south west of Jalal­abad city. It has a small main bazaar which is basi­cal­ly all on a one-hun­dred-meter long street. There are many small and sparse­ly locat­ed vil­lages all around the main bazaar. It’s a beau­ti­ful place with a lot of snow in win­ter and cool weath­er in summer.
We went there back in April and set up a lab with five lap­tops, a print­er and some Eng­lish lan­guage mate­ri­als. We also set up a small solar pow­er sys­tem for the com­put­er lab which includ­ed four solar pan­els, four car bat­ter­ies, charge con­trollers and pow­er invert­ers. When we were set­ting up this com­put­er lab we trained a poten­tial stu­dent, Hadi on the solar pow­er and com­put­er set­up struc­ture so that he can trou­bleshoot any poten­tial prob­lems by him­self. Last week, I went to Kaga to check on the com­put­er lab and every­thing and I was very impressed by how sus­tain­able and well func­tion­ing the learn­ing cen­ter had been for the past five months.
Approx­i­mate­ly, three hun­dred stu­dents are learn­ing com­put­er skills and Eng­lish lan­guage in this small cen­ter. It’s got 8 computer/ Eng­lish lan­guage train­ers, a man­ag­er and a guard/cleaner. One of the stu­dents, Hadi, who got a lit­tle train­ing when we were set­ting up the lab, vol­un­teers to help with tech­ni­cal and IT prob­lems. It’s dif­fi­cult to bring some­one from Jalal­abad every time they need tech­ni­cal support.
Not all of these stu­dents are tak­ing com­put­er class­es right from the begin­ning. For com­put­er pro­grams train­ing some knowl­edge of the Eng­lish lan­guage is required. Begin­ner stu­dents have to take two months of Eng­lish lan­guage train­ing before they can be accept­ed in com­put­er course.However, some stu­dents join the train­ing cen­ter with a lit­tle pri­or knowl­edge of the com­put­er lan­guage. The train­ers will place them both in com­put­er and in Eng­lish lan­guage class­es right from the begin­ning. In each of their Eng­lish class­es there are about 30 stu­dents and they all sit in car­pet classrooms.
As many vil­lages are sparse­ly locat­ed in Kaga, some stu­dents walk 30 kilo­me­ters every­day to attend their class­es in this cen­ter. Shamshad is a nine-year-old begin­ner stu­dent who walks a long way togeth­er with his old­er broth­er and cousins to come here. He says, “I want to learn com­put­er skills and Eng­lish lan­guage and work in an inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion some day.” Com­ing to the cen­ter for his Eng­lish class is his favorite to do of every day. “I like my teach­er­s”, he says.

Under Taliban’s regime and before that, a family’s strength and pros­per­i­ty here was judged by the num­ber of sons one had. Peo­ple fought over land and water a lot more often. They would train their sons to use a gun at a very young age for poten­tial fam­i­ly fights/enmities. Those who did not have a son would train their daugh­ters to use guns but that would be use­ful indoors only as women are not allowed to go out many peo­ple had very strict and tra­di­tion­al views about women’s rights here. They thought that women should not go out. If they. If they had to do so, they would have to wear ‘Islamic dress’ so that they are com­plete­ly cov­ered. This tra­di­tion is chang­ing now and more and more fam­i­lies send their daugh­ter to school. The per­son who runs this cen­ter is a for­mer Afghan MP and he plans to start sim­i­lar edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams for women at this cen­ter If a fam­i­ly had no son they would be con­sid­ered weak. This sex­u­al prej­u­dice seems to be chang­ing rapid­ly. It’s no longer about the quan­ti­ty of your chil­dren; it’s about the qual­i­ty – get­ting good edu­ca­tion and a decent job.
It’s a Tal­iban-infest­ed area and a lot of peo­ple here used to sup­port Tal­iban. Now Tal­iban is los­ing their sup­port as peo­ple see it as a dead-end busi­ness. Shamshad and hun­dreds of oth­er chil­dren like him are busy learn­ing at this learn­ing cen­ter as an after/before school activ­i­ty. They come here with a lot of enthu­si­asm. They seem to be get­ting what they want and there is a lot of hope that they will make it there and they will have a bright future.