USAID funding and building boosts teachers’ education

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education opened a new faculty of education at Herat University last week. It is one of six new education faculty buildings being funded by the United States Agency for International Development and was constructed by the US military.

Other faculties built at Bamyan, Parwan, Balkh, Faryab and Jawzjan universities are also part of USAID’s Higher Education Project (HEP), designed in collaboration with the ministry to boost four-year teacher education programmes in Afghanistan and strengthen planning and faculty skills through training, scholarships and material support.

HEP is also funding a master of education programme to improve the quality of teaching and academic administration and increase the number of faculty members with graduate degrees.

According to official statistics, five cohorts with 22 students each have been admitted into USAID-funded graduate programmes since 2007 – with 50% of the students being women.

Speaking at the 3 April graduation ceremony of the third masters cohort at Kabul Education University, Deputy Minister of Higher Education Professor Osman Babury said the USAID-funded education masters at the university had become a model that the ministry “would like to see replicated in all other new masters degree programmes, especially in terms of gender equity and with 50% of female students in each cohort”.

HEP is also providing technical assistance to the National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2010-14 for self-assessments in public universities, which will lead to quality assurance and eventual accreditation.

Further, it is assisting in the redesign of the country’s public policy and administration programme, to help it better match the needs of Afghan civil service. A new masters in public policy and administration has been set up at Kabul University, and four other universities are finalising plans to begin offering the programme at undergraduate level.

Nazar Mohammad Halim, of the faculty of science at Kabul University, welcomed the USAID initiatives as “a good tool for producing the national workforce required for development.

“However, the support of the international community for higher education reform and national universities must not overshadow the uniqueness of Afghanistan, its people, its history, its culture and tradition as well as its national needs,” Halim told University World News.