It has been some time since my last update and for this I apologize; I have been trying my best to remain ‘off the grid’ as it were, as I work prospects for The Exceptional Children’s Laboratory School. But as stories of deteriorating security in Afghanistan continue, I feel compelled to join the voices who urge that we not abandon Afghanistan in spite of the challenges.
Certainly there are signs of hope in Afghanistan. Recently, there appears to be what some are noting as an erosion of hard-core Taliban influence in Khost and Paktia Provinces, as the militant Haqqani network splits due to disgust over increased attacks against local Afghans. And John Podesta and Stephen Hadley write in their latest New York Times opinion editorial, that “between the corrupt officials and the Taliban” there remains a “peaceful majority” of Afghans who want prosperity for their country. These are both very good signs for the future of Afghanistan and are indications that, with continued international support, Afghanistan has the ability to rise from tyrannical influences and experience an enduring peace.
An enduring peace cannot be imposed by foreign armies – it must come from within, from the indigenous population – because when people begin to feel they have a stake in the success of their communities they tend to put their energies into more positive pursuits. This is the essential argument for continued assistance to Afghanistan; a ground-up approach that will improve the day-to-day lives of Afghans through enhanced security, greater access to food, clothing, shelter, and jobs as economic opportunities and improvements in infrastructure steadily increase through reconstruction.
And key to successful reconstruction efforts lies in letting Afghanistan retain its indigenous social and cultural identity. Development projects that remain ‘Afghan-centric’ will have the best chance of long-term sustainability, and will also provide for Afghanistan to continue to develop strong ties with its neighbors.
The Exceptional Children’s Laboratory School is just this kind of project. It is our mission to train teachers to expand educational opportunities in Afghanistan so that ALL students receive the best possible education, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We do this because we understand the important role that education plays in society – it allows students of all abilities, socio-economic backgrounds, and ethnicities to come together to learn not only about academics and the world around them, but also about each other. It is to this end, that we seek to offer sustainable solutions to Afghanistan’s complex challenges involving individuals with disabilities in a culturally-sensitive setting.
We must not give up on Afghanistan – we have already given so much.
*Photos courtesy of Everything Afghanistan