Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Root of all Challenges

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Root of all Challenges

All challenges in a nation originated from existing problems in education higher education; because higher education has recognized as foundation of all infrastructure and of the most important driver in today’s competitive world! In order to improve employment opportunities, in order to fight against poverty, in order to get rid of health issue and to cope with other challenges there is a serious need to root out the root challenges of higher education. Educated citizens can be key determinant of a nation’s development which builds economy and reduces poverty, as more educated citizens has capacity to innovate, learn quickly and capable of dealing with changing circumstances. For these purpose to be attained it’s important to have quality education that could response to the market need of the society.
The history of modern education in Afghanistan goes back to the year 1863 by continuous efforts of Sayed Jamal-ud-din Afghan in the era of Amir Sher Ali Khan. Before that, there was no modern education in the country as people were educating themselves in religious schools (Madrassas or Masajids), by Islamic teachers known as Mullahs. At the same period, girls’ education was almost negligible in Afghanistan. King Amanullah Khan was the one who for the first time addressed education for girls. In past 15 years Afghanistan has crossed big milestone towards education and higher education but considering the needs of time and paralyzing challenges we are still in its infantine steps.
Despite crossing these basic steps over the past 15 years, human resource development in Afghanistan continues to be a challenge. Improving the quality of education, expanding opportunities, addressing equality, and closing the skills gap between labor supply and market demands are of the utmost importance. Due to qualitative and quantities deficiencies also growing competitive demands, rebuilding higher education is a pressing and critical need for Afghanistan. With a critical shortage of professionals and leaders – engineers, technicians, administrators, accountants, agriculturist, and business leaders – the country found it difficult to meet the needs of reconstruction, growth and poverty reduction. Afghan universities suffered from a large majority of the problems that typically plague public tertiary institutions in many developing countries: low quality, lack of relevance, insufficient funding, and lack of appropriate physical facilities, weak links with the economy, and weak governance and management. While these problems have certainly been exacerbated by war and its negative economic consequences, they reflected deep structural dysfunctions that required careful attention.
Unlike developed countries, Afghanistan has a very centralized government system of higher education. So there needs to be major reforms. For example, giving universities more financial and academic autonomy, enhance research quality, modernize methods of teaching, and so forth. Afghanistan still has one of the lowest numbers of girls enrolled in higher education in the world. We also need to increase the number of female faculty. Autonomy is a primary factor related to administration and governance is the issue of autonomy. Stemming from the era of Soviet control, Afghanistan’s institutions of higher education remain centrally controlled by government agencies, and lack virtually any level of autonomy. This includes academic autonomy, financial autonomy, and so forth. According to expert, this issue is mentioned as one of the most significant factors effecting Afghanistan’s higher education. Currently, institutions of higher education are controlled in terms of curricula, pedagogy, and budget. Therefore, they cannot raise funds to support the institution. In addition, they have a very difficult time procuring necessary funding for adequate facilities, curriculum, labs, and so forth. As the experts state, there is “nowhere in the world where higher education can sustain themselves solely on a centralized budget”. So the Needy universities are dependent on centralized governance, and therefore cannot adequately procure necessary funds.
Other issue is low capacities; Students’ enrollment is vastly outpacing higher education capacity and funding; annually there are around 500,000 volunteers but the public capacity is around 80,000 including institution (the semi-higher education). So, we extremely need for more universities. The demand for higher education is currently far greater than the available places in universities and institutions. According to the strategic plan for Afghanistan, “the issues of access, relevance, and quality extend to higher education, where opportunities for enrollment are severely constrained and formal educational offerings are few”. Not surprisingly, universities are unable to provide the quality or quantity of professionals needed for the labor market, particularly in the management and technical fields where demands are critical.
Favoritism is also a major problem in all sections including higher education. It is frequently complained that the candidates are not hired on the basis of their meritocracy, rather mainly on a recommendation and racial basis. Racial discrimination is the most undeniable phenomena in Afghanistan including public universities. As result where unqualified individuals are placed in administrative also in other key positions. So, controlling nepotism and corruption as well as working towards substantive, procedural, and fiscal autonomy pose many challenges to higher education in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has made very limited progress in moving toward semi-autonomous institutions, and there is still a long way to go.

Lastly the administrative corruption is the most paralyzing challenge as Afghanistan is consistently identified as one of the most corrupt country in the world. In higher education, corruption manifests itself in a variety of ways. The tendency for individuals who are getting salaries but not doing the job; It is said that in institutions where several teachers, who were being paid to teach, work in different jobs and never appeared in the classroom. Other forms of corruption include loss of funding for procurement, stealing from students, and so forth. Nepotism and corruption have created significant challenges in the way to higher education development in Afghanistan. According to experts, Afghanistan cannot be developed by its existing weak and deeply divided government-an administration.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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