Building Afghan universities in the face of violence

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Copyright: Imogen Mathers

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In 2002, after decades of war followed by Taliban oppression, Afghanistan’s university system was in tatters, says Osman Babury, the nation’s deputy minister of higher education, in this audio interview. Just 7,000 students were enrolled in university — and all of them male as the Taliban restricted female education. Thirteen years later, there are over 300,000 students in higher education, 50,000 of them women.
But the path to a fully functioning higher education system remains beset by challenges. Persistent conflict, political volatility and the threat of Taliban attacks — including on universities themselves — make providing higher education a struggle.
Stress and mental health problems stemming from long-term exposure to war and oppressive regimes affect huge numbers of Afghan students. And as universities in Afghanistan and worldwide increasingly become targets for extremist attacks — the devastating Garissa attack in Kenya in April being a recent high-profile example — giving students and staff training in how to deal with these threats becomes ever more vital, Babury says.
In this interview, Babury discusses these and other challenges, and suggests ways to tackle them head-on.
The interview was recorded on 2 June at the British Council’s Going Global conference on international education, in London, United Kingdom.