Afghanistan: Borjegai

Borjegai Schools Project

(project established: 2003)

June 2013 News from Borjegai

Our popular Project Officer, Ali Reza Yunespour, received a most enthusiastic welcome on his recent visit to Kabul, Borjegai and Jirghai.  Apart from attending and being an honoured guest at two weddings, an area wide horse racing event was organised with around 500 people from all the Borjegai sub-villages and most areas in Jirghai too.

He was accompanied on his visit by our Financial Trustee, Mr Anwar Haidary and his team who have been pivotal to the success and implementation of indigo and Rotary Club of Ryde’s major contribution to the community’s education system and infrastructure.

The opening ceremony for the Salman-e Fars School had been delayed until Ali arrived and was a well attended event.  Many speeches including those of influential Mullahs and some school principals from neighbouring Jirghai were made.  There were plenty of opportunities for Ali to talk with people associated with all the schools in Borjegai at the opening and when he visited each and every school.

The community expressed its gratitude for the continued support provided over the past ten years by indigo foundation and the Rotary Club of Ryde.

In Kabul, Ali talked with many of the university graduates and current tertiary students in Kabul who completed their secondary education in Borjegai schools.  Some of these graduating students have returned and are now working as teachers and principals in the Borjegai schools – a true demonstration of sustainability in support for their education system and infrastructure.

More stories and pictures to come – watch this space!

Project Background

The village of Borjegai (population 36,000) is located in a mountainous area of central Hazarajat in Nawor District, Ghazni province.  The Hazara population of Borjegai, like the other parts of Hazarajat, has been the victim of institutionalised discrimination by Afghanistan’s central governments in the past. The harsh geography and historical discrimination have made it difficult for Borjegai’s population to access socially valued resources, such as education.

Previously children in Borjegai village attended school in tents © Salman Jan

Previously children in Borjegai village attended school in tents © Salman Jan

Our partnership with the village of Borjegai to develop educational opportunities for the village’s children began in 2003. After eight years, the Borjegai Schools Project has become a micro-development success story with potential to be used as a model for rural development throughout Afghanistan: it is community managed, focused, results-based and very cost-effective.

There are currently nine schools with 4,500 students operating in Borjegai all of which are registered with the central government’s Ministry of Education.  We have provided project management support, funding for salaries of professional teachers and the purchase of school textbooks and stationery materials, support for the construction of three school buildings (accommodating 2,200 students) and furnishing for a fourth. One of the three buildings funded is a separate Girls’ High School, which has 750 students.

School children from Kushkak, Borjegai ready to learn in their new classroom © Salman Jan

School children from Kushkak, Borjegai ready to learn in their new classroom © Salman Jan

Provincial authorities have ranked the Borjegai schools as the best both in outstanding academic achievement and the quality of buildings.

Since 2003 approximately $340,000 has been spent in the Borjegai village to improve education. Of this, almost half has been contributed by the community, in the form of land, labour and $80,000 cash.

Achievements in 2010-11

During this year we worked closely with the School and the Borjegai community to further develop infrastructure and improve teaching and education outcomes. Achievements include:

School under construction in Borjegai Village Afghanistan © Salman Jan

School under construction in Borjegai Village Afghanistan © Salman Jan

  • Construction of a third school – Koshkak High School for 1,000 students, funded by the Rotary Club of Ryde. Schools at Borjegai have been built at an average cost of $80,000 whilst the national average is $200,000.
  • Supply of furniture and building of a well by local communities for a fourth school.
  • Continued funding for three qualified teachers for the girls high school, enabling girls to attend university and gain employment in the village schools: seven graduating female students have returned to teach, a significant milestone for achieving gender equity.
  • Continued funding for five qualified teachers for the main Borjegai coeducational high school.
  • An extended monitoring and evaluation trip by Salman Jan, indigo foundation’s project adviser in 2010. Salman’s findings are documented in his report The Awakening: the Tale of a Community’s Quest for Education and supported by extensive video footage and photos. Salman was presented with the Rotary Foundation‘s Paul Harris Fellow Award for contribution to humanitarian and educational programs as a result of his efforts in this project.

Challenges

The Borjegai community erect the Rotary Club of Ryde sign

The Borjegai community erect the Rotary Club of Ryde sign © Salman Jan

An unfortunate difficulty in the project during 2010-11 arose from the allocation of funding for the village’s university students (especially under-privileged and female students). The aim of this funding was to support students with their tertiary education from 2009-2010. Whilst all funds were correctly allocated and administered (and the support has been vital), the increasingly politicised nature of the students association and the difficulties of managing the funds across Kabul, Mazar- e -Sharif and Kandahar created conflict within the community. We are currently looking at alternative ways to support these students, as the social transition and cost of moving to a capital city from Borjegai can be prohibitive for many.

Posing greater challenges for the community was the widespread damage to agriculture and infrastructure caused by severe flooding in September 2010. Many families lost their annual crops and Borjegai had five bridges destroyed.  The bridges have been temporarily rebuilt by the community but because of lack of government or international funding they are sub-standard and continue to be major challenges for transport and communication.

Broader impact of the project

School library of Kushkak, Borjegai © Salman Jan

School library of Kushkak, Borjegai © Salman Jan

Over the last seven years, we have seen a number of successful (if at times unforeseen) outcomes emerge from the partnership. These include:

  • Increased community understanding and value for education. The vast majority of families now encourage and support their children to attend school and ultimately university.
  • Increased cultural change towards the education of girls. While there is still a long way to go to achieve full gender equity, significant improvements have been made. About 45 percent of the students in the village are girls, a much higher rate than the nationwide one of less than 35 percent.
  • Increased level of community cooperation and harmony (as identified by the community) due to all three tribes of the village having to work collectively to support the schools.  This complements the natural benefits of the children attending school together.
  • Cultural shifts in Mullah’s attitudes from supporting only religious schooling towards a greater understanding of the need to educate children to have the capacity to respond to the increasingly diverse needs of the community.
  • Enhanced capacity of the community to lobby the District and Provincial governments not only in matters related to their schools but also in health, security and legal services: the three tribes successfully lobbied the government for a Medical Clinic to be built in the village.
  • Lastly, the end of ‘gun culture’ that was crippling the country during the war and the rise of a collective awareness about the importance of peace and education.

The future

Children of Kushkak, Borjegai line up for school assembly in the quadrangle of their new school © Salman Jan

Children of Kushkak, Borjegai line up for school assembly in the quadrangle of their new school © Salman Jan

The partnership between indigo foundation and Borjegai has provided a solid base for the continuation and expansion of the project in partnership with surrounding communities.  We are developing a five year strategic plan to increase educational infrastructure and improve teacher quality in Borjegai and adjacent villages, with the ultimate goal of supporting 15,000 students in schools in the District by 2016.

We would like to extend our thanks to Mr Mohammad Anwar Haidary, indigo foundation’s long term in-country representative, who continued to provide crucial support this year in building a volunteer culture in Borjegai community.

We look forward to working with the people of Borjegai as they continue to invest in their children’s future.

                    From Ali Yunespour – My Trip to Kabul   2011-2012

During my trip to Kabul, I managed to meet with Mr Anwar Haidari, Financial Trustee for the Borjegai School Project and his team, as well as the Principal of Borjegai High School, key members of the Koshkak High School Shura and representatives of the Jirghai area.

They all expressed their deepest appreciation to indigo foundation and Rotary Club of Ryde. They mentioned that the support and assistance of indigo foundation and Rotary Club of Ryde have changed significantly the social and cultural landscapes of Borjegai. Specifically, they named the changes in the level of education – from almost no students in school in 2003 to a level where most of the school-aged children are currently enrolled in schools. They highlighted proudly that more than 200 Borjegai students are studying at various universities; and that those who have finished their studies are working in either government or non- government organizations. The community representatives had a positive perception of these changes and re-emphasised that the school project acts as a catalyst for social cooperation and community harmony.

Mr Anwar and his team reaffirmed their commitment to work with the Borjegai community and the indigo foundation, Rotary Club of Ryde and other potential partners. Members of the team are all highly respected in the community and receive an enormous amount of support from the Borjegai people. In their last visit to Koshkak High School, the school Shura presented them with a prestigious gift representing community’s support. Mr Anwar told me that “things have changed a lot in Borjegai in the past few years and people feel proud seeing their youth attending universities”. In fact, the positive outcome I saw amongst members of Borjegai community who were in Kabul is the high respect they have for their educated members. They feel and believe that the future of their community and, in fact their country, lies in the hands of their educated youth.

The Koshkak High School Shura and the principal of Borjegai High School came at our place and stayed there for a night with my family. The Koshkak High School Shura sent their special thanks to all indigo foundation and Rotary Club of Ryde members and said that their school is equipped extremely well and ranked first in a survey conducted by the Nawor District in 2011. Due to the improvements in the physical infrastructure of the school, the education level improved significantly so that it is now ranked equal with Borjegai High School and other leading high schools in the district. They also said that the community requested that the Shura hires more female teachers for the school. In that regard, the school Shura is now working actively to hire more female teachers in the new Afghan New Year in March which is highly promising. I reassured them about indigo foundation’s principle of Gender Equity and told them that indigo foundation and its partners are highly committed to girls’ education and equal opportunity for men and women.

I managed to see some of the Borjegai university students. They are highly hopeful that their education will provide them with great opportunities in the future. One of the areas where they expressed concern is how to enter the workforce – where discrimination is frequent and where bribes play a major role. Despite the lack of jobs and a fair work environment, they reported that more than ten  Borjegai university graduates had found jobs with the Afghan National Army;  some working as advisors with the Member of Parliament; five graduates had returned to Borjegai and now work as teachers and there are others working as teachers in other districts of Ghazni Province. Hearing about these students and the high hopes amongst the current university students made me realise the positive contribution we are making from here in Australia to the life of a community in a remote corner of this world.

I also met three Borjegai students who sat this year’s university entrance exam. They expressed their satisfaction with the exam and told me that their school principals also came with them to Ghazni City where the exam was held in order to help them find accommodation. They found the exam an easy paper and seemed hopeful of starting their higher education courses in less than three months. Currently, they are studying in private English language and computer classes for one hour per day.  One of them said to me that “my family hardly survives in the village. My older brother works in Iran to support us financially. But, they are committed to my education because they feel proud amongst the community when I attend university and learn English fluently.” These students work so hard to fulfill the expectations of their family and their community and to achieve their best in their personal life

Urgent Needs in Borjegai

While there are major achievements that we can all be proud of, there are always areas that we can do better and help further the Borjegai community. The following were emphasized by the representatives of the Borjegai community as important priorities for the people of Borjegai during my various talks with them.

1. The representatives of the Borjegai area asked me for urgent assistance for the building of Salman-e Fars School. According to their assessment and advice, the school needs nine rooms, a water well and six toilets. They re-stated the contribution they will make towards this building. In particular, they will help to identify the required land and will provide the labour and required tools. Similarly to indigo foundation’s previous work in the area, the salaries of professional builders are also beyond the capacity of the local people. After the completion of the school building, school furniture was also mentioned in our meeting as a priority for this school.  

2. The completion and furniture for three semi-constructed school buildings. The Koshkak High School Shura passed to me a verbal message from the Shuras of Sayyed Jamaluddin High School, Ali Ibn-e Abi Talib and Abuzar Ghaffari High Schools. These Shuras requested assistance for a number of classrooms, completion of school roofs, doors and windows. In addition, they also asked for assistance for school furniture. However, they told me that all three Shuras announced and re-stated their full commitment to provide the required labour and the tools when the work began.

3. The principal of the main Borjegai School, Mr Fahimi, came from Borjegai to visit me in Kabul and asked for assistance for the maintenance of the school building and additional school furniture. He also highlighted the positive impacts of our work in the Borjegai area including improvement in the physical infrastructure as well as the social harmony which is growing every day around educational, social and cultural programs amongst the people of Borjegai.

4. The Koshkak High School library works as a central library for all the Borjegai community. According to the Koshkak High School Shura, the students and parents have warmly welcomed the establishment of this library and, through this library, are in more direct contact with the school and the school staff.  Seeing the benefits of this library for the local people, the Shura has managed to collect books through community donations and has also bought a small number of books from Kabul. However, they said the library needs more books to encourage further the culture of book reading and to strengthen further the quality of education in Borjegai.

Jirghai Area

I felt extremely proud when I heard that representatives of the Jirghai area came to visit me and Mr Anwar. They heard of my trip from Mr Anwar and made the hard trip from their respective villages to Kabul. In my meeting with the Jirghai people, they told me that they are aware of the contribution that indigo foundation and its partners has made in Borjegai in the past few years. They also said that, through travelling to and from Borjegai on many occasions, they have seen the positive changes in Borjegai which have come as a result of investment in their schools and education system.  Specifically, they told me that Borjegai is a much smaller area than Jirghai with a much lower population. However, Borjegai has more university students than Jirghai in Kabul as well as country wide.

They also pointed out that there are currently 16 schools in the Jirghai area including three high schools. In total, they have 6000-7000 students including a high percentage of girls in primary and secondary levels. Approximately half of the teachers are from the local area and the other half is hired from other Ghazni districts with the assistance of the Afghan Ministry of Education. Like Borjegai before 2004, most of the Jirghai schools are currently held under tents. There are a small number of schools which have buildings but not even one has more than six rooms.

From talking with the Jirghai representatives, I learnt that there is a high need in the Jirghai area and the people of Jirghai are extremely hungry for education. They are also highly committed to provide the best possible education for their children. Their representatives told me that each family does everything in their power to send at least one, if not more, of their children to school. Based on these needs, they asked collectively for assistance for their schools. The requested assistance is for the construction of school buildings, school furniture and potential assistance for teachers’ salaries. They are aware of the capacity of indigo foundation and its partners and said that they are happy to work with indigo foundation and its partners for a long period of time. Like the people of Borjegai, they prefer a long term over a short term engagement with indigo foundation and its partners because they believe that a long term engagement has been effective in the Borjegai area and that most of the one-off development projects have failed substantially in Ghazni Province since 2001.

 

A Word of Thanks…

The Borjegai people sent their message of gratitude to all of you and wished for a day to see you in their village. Let’s hope for that day and remain proud of our work in Borjegai. I also would like to thank personally all indigo foundation and Rotary Club of Ryde members and volunteers.

 

Ali Reza Yunespour

Borjegai School Project Advisor

February 2012

Project Manager Cynthia Grant
Project Officers Ali Yunesour
Project Advisors Salman Jan
Board Representative Rob Mitchell
Contact for more information info@indigofoundation.org

One Response to Afghanistan: Borjegai

  1. I love your report about Borjegai. I found your site through my friend Nasima from Gawharshad University. My organisation is in the early stages of constructing a school for Hazara in Yakawlang District, Bamian.
    It was encouraging to read that you were able to construct a building for an average of $80000. We are planning to use stone as shown in one of your photos.
    I’d love my staff to visit Borjegai to see what can be accomplished in partership with a community, as this will be our first school!
    If this would possible please could you let me know.

    Thank you

    Pat

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