I founded Karadah Project International because of the unique and personal experiences I had with the extraordinary people I met while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. These experiences, past and present, with people who are courageously fighting for peace and stability in their communities inspire and animate me. While geographically in faraway places, refugees, displaced persons, and others suffering under the chaos of war are never far from my thoughts and concerns.
As a small organization, I’m grateful for the power of partnerships with other organizations filled with people who share my passion for supporting the efforts of good people making a difference in the world. One of these organizations is Rotary International, but more specifically individual Rotary Clubs spread all over the world.
The Herat (Afghanistan) Rotary Club is filled with young people who have benefited from a lifetime of relative peace and security. These unique Afghans have enjoyed expanded education opportunities — particularly for girls — increased travel, and exposure to the Internet and satellite television over the past decade and a half. They are more intimate with a world beyond Afghanistan than their parents and grandparents. The formation and efforts of the Herat Rotary Club are evidence of this transformative and positive effect. The promise of this distinctive point in history will depend on whether we have the commitment and patience to support these extraordinary people until they take their place as leaders in key societal and government positions.
The Herat Rotary Club, the Karadah Project, the Atlantic (Iowa) Rotary Club, and other participating Rotary Clubs are coming together to renovate, increase security around, and supply educational materials and training to the Khaja Mohammad Koohi primary and high school in Herat, Afghanistan. A key element of this project is creating an environment that will increase the attendance of girls. The project plan has been developed and will be led by the young professionals who make up the Herat Rotary Club, building both capacity and influence for these emerging leaders.
With contributions from all of the participating organizations and matching funds from Rotary International, our collectively-raised $13,000 becomes $62,000 — the power of partnerships to do massive good.
The school building has not been rehabilitated since it was built four decades ago and requires fundamental renovations, repairs, and upgrades. Due to the deterioration of security and increasing threats against educational facilities, parents are reluctant to send their girls to school for good reason. A main road passes close to the school, inviting strangers to walk through the school yard. Shepherds and farmers with their livestock and young men on motorcycles and bicycles pass through the schoolyard and interrupt classes.
The school has 7 classrooms and 9 grades in each shift, requiring grades one and two teachers to conduct classes outside the school building. The open and unprotected school yard, however, has mandated that those students meet off campus in the homes of community members for the safety of both teachers and students.
Every year, a significant number of Afghan girls drop out of school because of security concerns. That impact can be seen in the current situation where there is not the Ministry of Education-required ten girls attending the eighth and ninth grades to hold classes at those grade levels. One of the key obstacles to keeping girls in school is the lack of a safe and protected physical environment. The school does not have a secure boundary wall around the school. A boundary wall is both a real and symbolic protective barrier for Afghans.
The restrictions imposed on students also affects the quality of education offered at the school. School administrators and community members have installed metal security grates on the interior side of the windows to provide some defense against vandalism. Administrators feel it necessary, however, to take student files home each night to protect them. Female students feel that their school is like a prison; they spend their entire time inside the school building where there is little light and the windows are covered. In spite of these measures, they do not feel safe. They have rarely played in the school yard.
The school’s six washrooms are located 40–50 meters outside the school building and are not functioning. The facility does not have access to the city’s power, however, the water well is equipped with a solar system built in 2016. This setup gives students access to water, though there are no running water taps for washing and hygiene. Outdoor bathroom facilities require girls to utilize them in groups, always having a few guarding the others while using the bathrooms. The benefits of a boundary wall will insure the security of the school’s property, provide students with a better educational experience, and encourage parents to send their children to school.
This project will also address a lack of resources and training for students and faculty. The library and science lab will receive updated materials for student and faculty use. Faculty, administration, and the school’s community management council will receive training consisting of updated curriculum and methodologies, gender sensitivity, and alternative means of discipline.
The school’s management council will also receive training in community mobilization, focusing on the community’s role in the management, maintenance, and protection of the school. Strategies and techniques helpful in mobilizing the community to feel a sense of ownership of the school and the education of the students will be included in the training.
When complete, this project will address all of these issues and provide expanded educational capacity, increased student enrollment — particularly girls — and greater community involvement in the school.
If you would like to contribute to our efforts to support education in Afghanistan, click below to go to our campaign site.
LTC (retired) Rick Burns is founder and president of The Karadah Project International , an Iowa 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation committed to building sustainable and long-term solutions in partnership with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a member of Rotary International.