Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Kabul University and the Prevailing Challenges Awaiting it

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Kabul University and the Prevailing Challenges Awaiting it

Kabul University is still bearing the grave and heavy aftermaths of the long period of civil wars. When it was young, it was the center of social, cultural and educational attraction, attention, and flourishment. When it grew up further, it became the hotbed for germinating various political movements, but unfortunately, its growth did not last for a long time that Kabul University fell asleep and went to hibernation. After elapsing 85 years, recently once again it became the hope for thousands of students to brand their academic future.
Affordability and accessibility of higher education, public trust and public interests in higher education, gender equality and inclusion of low-socioeconomic status students and underrepresented groups in higher education, lack of public awareness among the families in the remote areas of Afghanistan regarding the importance of education, resistance against decentralization of educational institutions, opposing with the secularization of higher education by cleric stratum of the society, poor quality of higher educational services, lack of knowledge production at higher educational institutions, antiquated and abortive curriculum, lack of student activism and civic education at higher educational organizations, competitive and tough job market for university graduates, increasing unemployed degree holders, soaring escaping of masterminds from the country, booming population, promulgating fundamentalism at some higher educational organizations, and financial crisis are the most notable and considerable challenges in Afghanistan that higher educational institutions at large but in particular Kabul University is struggling with.  
Initially, universities and colleges have been founded for three central promises such as (a) teaching, (b) public services, and (c) conducting academic research.
The main questions arises here that does Kabul University have a vivid and concise mission statement? And, do Kabul University president, Collegium, and faculty have the necessary and enough potentials to fulfill the above three promises of higher education? The answers to the abovementioned questions all lie in the capacity, determination, and competency of Kabul University authorities. But in my mind, Kabul University did rarely and poorly fulfill two of its promises so far – teaching and public services. While exerting academic research which is the cornerstone of higher education institutions, unfortunately, it was and is inert and stagnant in this respect. In the United States, where I am doing my master’s degree, the faculty is selected mainly based on two criteria – academic publications and having a doctoral degree. I know that comparing American higher education with Afghanistan’s higher education does not make sense. I wanted to articulate that how much academic publications are instrumental for higher educational organizations’ authorities in the USA while at Kabul University it is not considered intentionally in the recruitment process of the faculty. It does not mean that we do not have proficient and professional educational cadres, we have many, but they are not hired in order that the ceiling glass at Kabul University is not broken. At Kabul University, professors are rarely publishing academic articles. They are immersed in teaching and making a living for their families. To say the fact, shortage of knowledge production is one of the biggest challenges that is eroding the academic culture. Indeed, in the absence of the academic publications and dissemination, educational organizations are dead because mobility is enlivened in discovery, advancement, innovation, academic upheavals, and transformation that are all originated from academic research at higher educational institutions.
At Kabul University, there is an excessive emphasis by the faculty on memorizing and learning the teaching materials for the tests, and there is less urge on learning for exploration and application. I still remember very vividly that how much the instructors were focusing on memorizing the chapters word by word. Once I had written the synonym of a word on the test paper, and the instructor gave me zero for that question due to not writing the exact word of the chapter. The real problem of such an inexorable didactic mechanism is showcased that when students are graduating from Kabul University, and when they are not able to compete with their rivals in the job market who study abroad or at private universities.
Thomas Friedman, a well-known American author and analyst argues that in today’s world, the companies and corporations hire only those applicants that they have to. In other words, the companies will pay only what you can do, not what you know because knowing is not the main concern in today’s job market. You can find the answer of any kind of questions potentially through googling on the internet. Hence, companies are not looking for those staff who know well but cannot do well. Unfortunately, the extant academic system at Kabul University is obsolescent, and even it is feeble to help students know well, let alone doing well.
Despite all the predominant challenges at Kabul University, one cannot simply overlook its significant and constructive role in educating thousands of students. After collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Kabul University was the main hope of Afghanistan’s youths for pursuing their higher education and since then thousands of students graduated. I think in the absence of Kabul University, we would have faced a big gap in our higher education that Afghanistan’s higher education authorities might not be able to bridge it for years. On the other hand, it would be very complacent to claim that Kabul University improved expansively and exponentially over the past 16 years. In comparison to elapsing a huge amount of time – more than a decade along with a vast infusion of America and other foreign countries finances into Afghanistan, Kabul University has been transformed very trivially. So, Afghan high ranking higher education officials must invest and pay attention to invigorating and mobilizing the higher educational institutions because there is much room for growth in higher education.
I personally think that in the 21st century – in the era of technological explosions, entrepreneurial development, business expansion, and the world in which information is dispersed across the globe faster than the speed of light, Kabul University faculty must teach creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking skills for students rather than just filling out their memories with some incongruous information. As Shashi Tharoor, an Indian author, columnist, diplomat and intellectual says very appropriately and profoundly that in the 21st century we need a well-formed minded student, not a well-filled minded student.

Hamid Bamik is a Graduate Student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis University of Missouri-Columbia. He can be reached at the hbqwf@mail.missouri.edu

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