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    Farah directorate of education sees significant improvement

    PRT Farah meets with the provincial director of education in Farah City

    Photo By Chief Petty Officer Joshua Ives | Farah Provincial Director of Education, Engineer Mohammed Saber, left, talks about...... read more read more

    FARAH CITY, AFGHANISTAN

    05.15.2013

    Story by Lt.j.g. Matthew Stroup 

    Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah

    FARAH CITY, Afghanistan – The Farah directorate of education under the leadership of its new Director of Education, Engineer Mohammed Saber, has seen significant improvements in its financial management and infrastructure development, resulting in increased security for students and a revitalization of the Farahi education sector. The improvements were highlighted in a key leader engagement between the director and representatives from Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah at Aboonaser Farahi High School in Farah City, May 13.

    “Education is the first thing for any country,” said Hamidullah, a long time teacher in Farah and the English teacher of the new education director during the meeting. “Aboonaser is the first school in Farah and the new chief of education is a good, young person and has worked hard to do many things for this school.”

    Saber was appointed as the acting director of education in early 2013 and was recently installed as the full-time director during a trip with provincial leadership to Kabul. Saber is a highly educated person having earned a master’s degree during the course of his studies in Afghanistan, Germany and India. Despite opportunities to work elsewhere, Saber has made the effort to work in his home province of Farah.

    “I work for the people of Farah,” said Saber when asked about the improvements he has made in a short five months in his position. “It is up to the people if I have done a good job or a bad job. They will be able to judge me based on the results.”

    During the meeting Saber said that he has approximately 300 staffers that work within his directorate that manage the efforts of approximately 4,000 teachers in Farah who educate an estimated 100,000 students, forty-percent of which are female students.

    PRT Farah has consistently met and worked with the director starting with their first meeting in January at a local agricultural school in Farah City.

    “The amount of things that he has accomplished in the time that he has been in his position is really incredible,” said Jim Otwell, a USAID Field Program officer with the PRT. “He laid out a plan for us when we first met. He said he was going to find a way to manage the budget properly so he would be able to track every cent that comes into the directorate and he said that he wanted to work on improving Aboonaser Farahi High School as it is a historic school and recognized as an important place in the district. He has done everything he said that he was going to do.”

    After one of his first meetings with the PRT, Saber asked for support from the PRT to provide paint for the exterior of the school, funding for irrigation of the school yard of Aboonaser Farahi, money for a sidewalk and finally funding to complete an exterior wall around the school yard to protect the students. Saber noted that during the Taliban regime, the schools in Farah had been neglected and dismantled and that at the current time, anyone could easily walk through the school. And it wasn’t just foot traffic. What used to be a soccer field was now a dry piece of land that saw frequent vehicle traffic as people sought easier ways to cut through the city.

    While the PRT was unable to provide funding for many of his requests, they were able to assist his effort to build a fence at the school. More importantly, the director began working on his first goal of effectively managing the directorate’s finances.

    During a February meeting with Otwell, Saber gave a presentation highlighting the director’s new budgeting mechanism that oversaw the fiscal management of each school in the province’s ten districts and the municipality of Farah City. Through his efforts, he was able to fund each request he previously made to the PRT and was also able to begin work on revitalizing seven other schools within the directorate, three of them being all girls’ schools.

    “To see the difference in the school from the time that we first met with the director until now is amazing,” said Otwell. “The back of the school is blocked off to the wanderers and vehicles that used to come through freely, and students are able to focus on their studies and take pride in their school.”

    While the director has made many improvements, he is continuing to work hard to fill gaps that have been created in the education system over the course of Afghanistan’s thirty years of conflict. During his recent visit to Kabul, he worked with the ministry to begin the process of building 45 new schools in Farah. The directorate currently rents space for 75 schools and building the directorate’s infrastructure will allow Afghanis spent on rent to go toward capacity building efforts like continued teacher training, building improvements on old facilities and the development of a teacher conference center where directorate leadership can hold in-services with teachers. While the bureaucratic process is challenging to navigate to receive the funding for the 45 schools, paperwork for three schools is already going through the system.

    During the PRT’s visit to Aboonaser Farahi on May 13, PRT civil and military representatives from the PRT also met with two classrooms full of students to talk to them about their feelings on the improvements and what the students’ future plans were. One student was clear about his intentions - in plain English.

    “It is important to my family that I get a good education. When I graduate I will go on to faculty. I would like to be an engineer later on to help them.”

    One might expect such rapid improvement to quickly fizzle out, but there is good evidence to support just the opposite. Based on Saber’s work with his budgeting process and coordination with the Ministry of Education, he estimates that his budget will increase by approximately 50 percent over the next fiscal year. Saber has learned that if he is able to show the ministry that the funds are being used, and used well in Farah, the ministry will support other budgeting requests which will account for the significant increase and opportunities for capacity building in his budget.

    The PRT’s trip to visit the director, however, was bittersweet as it marked the end of the PRT’s U.S. Chief of Mission personnel working in Farah. U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel will be moving to other posts as part of the transition process, but remain committed to providing support through the Ministry of Education in Kabul and through periodic engagement with leadership in Farah.

    “It is a sad day for me, but I am very happy that Ray [Ray Sudweeks, senior U.S. Dept. of State civilian in Farah] will be in Herat to continue to assist us, and that our military friends at the PRT will also remain in Farah,” said Saber.

    PRT Farah’s mission is to train, advise, and assist Afghan government leaders at the municipal, district, and provincial levels in Farah province, Afghanistan. Their civil-military team is comprised of members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). For more information about the PRT follow their page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PRTFRH.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.15.2013
    Date Posted: 05.15.2013 13:12
    Story ID: 106947
    Location: FARAH CITY, AF 

    Web Views: 191
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN