from the ashes
Purdue Agriculture helps rebuild Afghan's
By Beth Forbes
Rising from the
|The Kabul University
campus (top) lies in ruins after years of war in Afghanistan.
(Photo by Kevin McNamara)
Members of the Kabul University agricultural faculty return to the
classroom. (Photo by Kevin McNamara)
This is not the same place I left 30 years
ago," thought Kevin McNamara. He was returning to Afghanistan,
but he couldn't believe his eyes. Gone was the bustling city
of Kabul that he remembered from his days as a Peace Corps
Flying over the snow-capped mountains, the
view was beautiful and peaceful. But McNamara saw the scars
that war had left on the country as soon as he landed. The
runway was littered on either side with the bombed out relics
of aircraft. The airport had no electricity, and red flags
marked areas where land mines were still buried.
In the city, most of the houses were rubble,
and the shopping area had been destroyed. The hotel where
McNamara stayed was riddled with bullet holes. Rusting electric
trams no longer transported anyone.
The tree-lined lane that led to Kabul University
was still there, but the bustling campus that McNamara remembered
was now a gutted ruin of laboratories and classrooms instead. "I
knew that it would be bad, but I was really surprised by
the level of destruction," says the agricultural economist,
one of three Purdue faculty members who
traveled to Kabul University in March, the first step in
a plan to rebuild the institution.
Education amidst turmoil
Kabul University was once a premier institution of higher education in
central Asia. But trouble began in the late 1970s when the Soviet Union
took control of the country and cut ties with U.S. and European universities.
Faculty who had been educated in the West fell out of favor.
During the 1990s, the Kabul campus was on the
front line of a long-and-bloody Afghan civil war. Many of
the male students were literally drafted into the army as
they walked along the street. Dorms were used as barracks
Women became the predominant student gender
on the Kabul campus. But when the civil war ended and the
conservative Islamic Taliban regime came into power, women
were prohibited from pursuing an education.
broke out again in Afghanistan when the international war
on terrorism began last year. The former hallmark of Afghan
education eroded further and became a campus in shambles.
The university still had a few thousand students, but few
qualified teachers. Labs and classrooms were ransacked. There
were only two computers and no textbooks on campus.
Rising from the