Afghanistan: Borjegai

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Borjegai schools project

project established: 2003

Borjegai area consists of several villages with a total population of 36,000. It is located in a mountainous area of central Hazarajat in Nawor District, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

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.

background to the project

Borjegai area consists of several villages with a total population of 36,000. It is located in a mountainous area of central Hazarajat in Nawor District, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

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.

The partnership between indigo foundation and Borjegai to develop educational opportunities for the children of Borjegai began in 2003. After a decade, the Project has become a micro-development success story with great potential to be used as a model for rural development throughout Afghanistan: it is community managed, focused, results-based and extremely cost-effective.

For the first time in the village’s history, girls are being educated.
There are currently nine schools operating in Borjegai, which are all registered with the central government’s Ministry of Education.  To date, the Project has built four schools buildings (accommodating around 2,000 students) and furnished four of the nine Borjegai schools.

The project provides project management support and funding for salaries of professional teachers, construction of school buildings and the purchase of school textbooks and stationery materials.

Provincial authorities ranked the Borjegai schools as the best both in terms of quality of its buildings and for their outstanding achievements.

achievements

Since 2003 approximately $400,000 has been spent by the Project in Borjegai to improve education. Of this, almo

st half has been contributed by the community, in the form of land, labour and significant amount of cash with the other half provided by contributions to indigo from the Australian community.  Results of the Project have been outstanding and include:

a. Improved teaching and education outcomes

  • Around 4,000 students (45% are girls) now attend school. The majority of these students have access to safe, proper and usable school buildings, school furniture, safe drinking water and hygiene.
  • High School graduates increased from 0 to more than 350 since 2003. This represents a university entrance exam pass rate of over 75%, which is much higher than the national average of around 45%.
  • A significant number of university graduates have returned to the village in the past three years. They work as school principals and teachers in Borjegai schools and surrounding areas.
  • Enhanced teacher’s knowledge and capacity. Unlike a decade ago, today all Borjegai teachers have at least Year 12 qualification. In another milestone achievement, Borjegai schools have hired nine female teachers all of whom graduated from the local high schools.

b. Broader impact of the school Project

  • Increased community understanding and value for education such that the vast majority of  families  now encourages and supports their children to attend university.
  • Increased cultural acceptance towards the education of girls. While there is still a long way to achieve full gender equity, significant improvements have been made. About 45 percent of the students in the village are girls, representing a much higher rate than the less than 35 percent nationwide.
  • Increased level of community cooperation and harmony as all three tribes- Maqsud, Mazid and Khasha- of the village work collectively to take part in the school and their children attend the schools together.
  • Cultural shifts in Mullahs’ attitudes from only supporting religious schooling towards greater understanding of the need of educating of children to be able 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. Since 2007, the three tribes have successfully lobbied for a Medical Clinic in Borjegai and the government has agreed to build it. The building is built but it not yet staffed or equipped.
  • Lastly, there is rise of a collective awareness about the importance peace and education and a decreasing of  “Gun Culture” that was crippling the country during the war.

latest news from Borjegai

Borjegai Schools Excelled in Kankor!

By Ali Reza Yunespour – Project Coordinator

The 21st of March, which is the Afghan New Year (Nawruz) and the first day of spring season, also marks the day on which schools commence every year in Afghanistan. The country’s President Mr Ashraf Ghani rang the first school bell for the solar Year of 1394 in Amani High School in Kabul on 19 March 2015.

Nawruz is an exciting time and an important celebration in the Afghan culture. This year’s Nawruz was more special for me as it corresponded to the day that I received the results of the national university entrance exams (known as Kankor) for nationwide and Borjegai students who participated in this increasingly competitive test.

It is so encouraging to know that around 117,000 new students have successfully made it to the public or private higher education institutions this year. According to the country’s Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), the total number of Kankor participants were 219,145 students.

It is reported that nationally around 30 percent of students, who successful passed the test, were girls this year. If true, this reflects a major improvement for female tertiary students, as currently 18 percent of enrolled tertiary students are girls in Afghanistan.

Once again, Borjegai schools have excelled in Kankor. Of the 113 Borjegai students, 56 boys and 32 girls have been offered courses in tertiary institutions. The Borjegai Kankor results represent a success rate of over 75 percent, which is much higher than the national average of just over 50 percent.

Nematullah and Seemagul, both from Golbona village, respectively have received 332 and 330 points, representing the highest score amongst the Borjegai male and female participants of Kankor. Nematullah and Semagul will study Information Technology (IT) and Pharmacy at Kabul University for the next 4 years.

Borjegai Kankor Results 2014

Name of School Kankor Participants Kankor Results
By Institution By Gender TOTAL
Public universities/HE institutions Private Higher Education Institutions M F
Koshkak High School 21 14 4 13 5 18
Sayed Jamaluddi HS 28 15 5 4 16 20
Golbona High School 8 7 1 5 3 8
Borjegai High School 26 17 4 16 5 21
Ali ibn-e Abi Talib HS 9 3 4 7 0 7
Al-Zahra High School 21 12 2 11 3 14
TOTAL 113 67 20 56 32 88

The Kankor results for Borjegai schools came just a few months after a graduation ceremony, which was jointly organised by the Borjegai and Jirghai communities in Kabul for their 130 new university graduates. At the time I was in Kabul for my field work, and had the honour to participate in the ceremony. It was extremely pleasing for me to see that 86 new graduates and seven Master degrees attended the ceremony.

The joint ceremony was a success in itself, and another demonstration of Borjegai and Jirgahi communities’ commitment to education and community development. Around 1500 members of the community attended the program, including a large number of girls and women.

A large number of community members gathered to celebrate the achievements of their university students

Kankor Process and Issues

Like the previous years, Kankor was held province by province in winter (December-February). It contained 160 multiple-choice questions from all subjects of the last three years of the high school (Years 10-12), in which the correct answers were given 1 to 3 points.

Kankor, however, is more than a multiple choice test because it decides the fate of a student to receive ‘free’, ‘for-fee’, or no tertiary education. For example, almost half of the total students who received marks below 177 (up around 10 points from that of last year) have missed on their first chance to study in tertiary education, particularly in public institutions, this year. These students have two more chances to sit for Kankor in coming years. However, it is becoming much harder every year for Kankor participants to get into public tertiary institutions due to the rapid increase of year twelve graduates.

Getting into one of the 33 public tertiary institutions, particularly in one of the four public universities located in Kabul, is crucial for the Kankor participants. It is because they are more likely to study their courses together with students from various ethnic and sectarian groups. More importantly, the MoHE has an absolute monopoly over the distribution of government and foreign scholarships in Afghanistan, which means that students of public universities are more likely to study abroad. For example, around 9000 Afghan students from the public universities and government departments have received scholarships from Indian universities in the past decade.

Due to their limited capacity, the public universities were able to offer courses for a quarter of Kankor participants this year, which shows a decrease of around 10 percent than their intakes in previous Kankor. The result for Borjegai students was better as over 50 percent of them were accepted in public universities.

Despite the encouraging Kankor results, Kankor regrettably was not without its difficulties. The winter’s cold winter, MoHE mismanagement, ongoing interference by powerful politicians, and reported fraudulent practices once agin undermined the credibility and transparency of this year’s Kankor.

Moreover, the structural problems are still in place in Afghanistan. For instance, the public tertiary education are still entirely dependent on foreign aid, and they have been already suffering from inadequate resources, over-crowdedness, and heavy reliance on teaching at the expense of research. More importantly, the employment opportunities are very limited for new university graduates, and there seems to be a huge gulf between tertiary education courses and the social and economic realities of Afghanistan.

The above structural problems have a detrimental affect on the quality of education in tertiary institutions. If not addressed now, they have the potential to undermine the future success and role of university graduates in this country.

The future of Borjegai School Project

We in indigo foundation would like to congratulate the Borjegai and Jirghai students for their recent achievements. We are extremely proud of our support for those students, and the exemplary commitment of Borjegai and Jirghai communities to education and community development.

With the generous support of the Rotary Club of Ryde, we were able to provide furniture for two more schools (Sayed Jamaluddin High School and Salam-e Fars School) in 2014. With the completion of the furniture projects late last year, the Borjegai School Project has assisted the community with the construction of four school buildings, and provided furniture, safe drinking water, and hygiene facilities for six schools in the past decade.

We are currently raising the final funds to support the Borjegai community with the maintenance and upgrading of the Borjegai High School in 2015. The Rotary Club of Burley Griffin has kindly donated $2,000 for this project. We expect all nine Borjegai schools will be self-sustaining by next year. A wonderful achevement.

Jirghai School Project

We have recently established the Jirghai School Project on our development model with the Borjegai community. The JSP aims to expand our school project in rural Afghanistan to include an additional 21 schools in Jirghai area. This is a new milestone for indigo foundation, and we believe we can assist the Jirghai schools with your ongoing support and dedication of our members and volunteers.

We have raised funds for the furniture of Imam Hussien High School in Jirghai, and this project will commence in early May. The project will assist around 650 students, of which around 30 percent are girls.

In addition, we are looking for your kind support to help the Jirghai community with the construction of Shebar High School this year. This is a co-ed school consisting of around 450 students. The community is committed to make a significant contribution towards the construction of their school building – and we are commtted to supporting them do this.

Another wonderful Afghan – indigo foundation partnership has begun!