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Stabilizing Afghanistan's Conflict through Education

Afghanistan's long history of conflict has deprived youth of  critical education opportunities.  Children in conflict-afflicted countries are more likely to be out of school or to drop out.  Conflicted areas result in extreme disadvantages of poverty and social inequality.  As the bulk of contemporary conflict exists locally, through internal civil conflicts among high-capacity non-state actors, these conflicts frequently target and endanger civilians, further disrupting education systems.  The disruption of daily life, the prevalence of social inequality, and the destruction of local infrastructure and markets from conflict has specifically harmed schools and schoolchildren.  Attacks on schools, the recruitment of children, and the targeting of school infrastructure in Afghanistan have only reinforced poverty and social degradation [UNESCO].

Afghanistan contains two separate eduction systems.  For centuries, traditional religious education was the only available system, until the 1960s when a new, modern education system was introduced with the creation of Kabul University and supporting secular institutions.  Kabul University and nine other post-secondary colleges served the population until the Soviet War and the following Civil War resulted in their downfall.  Between 1996 and 2001, circumstances worsened as the Taliban closed institutions or heavily restricted curriculums.   In 2000, UNICEF reported that less than 5% of Afghan children received a primary school education. Under the Taliban, female education was banned [BBC].

Today in Afghanistan, the World Bank reveals an expanded access to education, with 6.2 million children enrolled and 2.2 female students [World Bank].   Some of these successes can be attributed to large scale programs such as UNICEF's Country Programme Action Plan for 2010-2013, which as continually worked to ensure that Afghani children have the ability to express the rights outlined within the UN Convention on the rights of the child [UNICEF].  Yet there remains a demand for continued improvement such as access to higher education institutions. At present, Afghanistan can only accommodate about 60,000 students leaving Grade 12, while public training technical institutions can only absorb a few thousand [UN].  Education is critical asset to overcome the gap between humanitarian assistance and post-coflict reconstruction.  It serves a need with the initial processes of stabilization, but more importantly, provides mechanisms for long lasting peace and economic development.  

The support of al-Shabaab through diaspora

I am pleased to announce publication of my article "The support of al-Shabaab through diaspora."  The research was conducted in two phases, in the winter of 2010/2011 and with follow up research in October of 2011.  The first phase was conducted personally in Nairobi while the second required more subtle means with the help of a local research assistant and translator whose name must be withheld to protect his identity.

The article does not go into methodology, however, research was conducted by qualitative techniques, relying upon non-participatory observation, participatory observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviews.  Research was conducted in public locations in Nairobi, Kenya.

The article posits some answers to the question, "why would those who have suffered from the actions of Somali militant group al-Shabaab be inclined to support this organization?"  Ultimately research has found that the ideology of the group to promote Islam over the interests of tribalism, the organizations socio-economic integration with the diaspora community, and its potential to provide an eventual peace are fundamental to the support of the organization.  Other initial findings include organization recruitment strategies that exploit pscho-social trauma, however additional research is necessary in this area.

Click this link to download a free .pdf copy of the Forced Migration Issue 37.  

To download a pdf of my own article,

The Burundi Fund for Hope and Restoration

Bujumbura, Burundi   BFHR 2010
Within one year from now, I look forward to the Burundi Fund for Hope and Restoration being on the ground and in fully in motion.  As a member of the BFHR's Board of Directors, its been a slow process for the last 8 months as we have worked to coordinate with local agencies, refine our programming scope, and develop our fundraising processes.  However the continuous efforts of the team to work toward enhancing education opportunities for the youth of this East African Nation are finally coming to fruition.  I will be soon blogging much more on the status of this agency, as we are on the cusp of putting all the initial planning into action. 

The mission of the Burundi Fund is to assist repatriated refugee children to access the education they deserve but cannot afford.  Although primary schools are free in Burundi, secondary education often requires tuition ormany children cannot attend as they cannot pay the additional costs.  Schools may be to far away, supplies, books, and school clothes are prohibitively expensive, or the family needs the child to stay home to assist with domestic duties, such the family business or as local labor.  As a result of conflict and poverty, Burundi has a national literacy ranking of 150 out of 177 according to the United Nations Development Program.

Burundi School Children   BFHR, 2010
The Burundi Fund specifically works to assist the needs of repatriated refugee youth within Burundi. After having lived in camps for as long as 15 years, and returning as strangers to their homeland, repatriated youth are among those with the greatest challenge to access opportunity within Burundi.  The Burundi Fund addresses this problem by working to secure improved access and options to students of all ages with coordinated partnerships with local agencies and businesses so that this education may directly carry over into employment opportunities and expanded markets.  

Please join our Facebook page to receive more updates about Burundi Fund and how you can get involved.  

More information about returning refugee youth to Burundi can be found in this UNICEF video.