Editor’s Note: The following essay is part of our series we are calling “Voices from the New Afghanistan.” It was written by an impressive young Afghan man, Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal, living in Kabul and working with Pax Populi Tutoring Services to advance his English language skills. In this essay he shares his views on current conditions in Afghanistan and his hopes for his country’s future. Sajid is particularly concerned with advancing peace in his country and the conditions facing the children of Afghanistan. He embodies many of the characteristics that leads us to feel confident that despite all the challenges facing Afghanistan, the country has a promising future ahead.
By Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal
How I currently see my country
We have seen some progress in Afghanistan in recent years. According to the Human Development Index my country has progressed from the second most underdeveloped nation in 2009, to 15th most underdeveloped nation in 2010, [ref]See: http://www.irinnews.org/Report/91015/In-Brief-Afghanistan-climbs-up-Human-Development-Index.[/ref] but the nation still faces huge challenges. The government of Afghanistan is full of corruption. Corruption seems to have spread to every small and great place of Afghanistan over the past 10 years. Some police officers, including those who have high posts in the police, are breaking the rules and doing whatever they want. This has made living in Afghanistan very hard. According to the 2011 Corrupt Perceptions Index of the anti-corruption organization, Transparency International (TI), Afghanistan ranks 180 out of 182 countries. [ref]See http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/.[/ref] Moreover, TI claims that the situation is worsening. According to Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of TI, although Afghanistan is a recipient of billions of dollars in international aid, local corruption absorbed over $1 billion of the $8 billion in foreign aid given in the past eight years. [ref]This appeared in the New York Times last July.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/opinion/billions-down-the-afghan-hole.html.[/ref]
The international community remains committed to Afghanistan’s development, having pledged over $67 billion at nine donor conferences between 2003 and 2010 [ref]See: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html.[/ref] and another $16 billion US pledged at the Tokyo Conference a couple of months ago [ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/world/asia/afghanistan-is-pledged-16-billion-for-civilian-needs.html.[/ref] However, the World Bank also suggests that Afghanistan still lacks the capacity and infrastructure to ensure that aid is correctly invested.[ref]http://live.worldbank.org/afghanistan-aid-effectiveness-fiscal-outlook-need-further-attention.[/ref] Afghanistan needs people in government who are kind, who can feel and understand the problems of people, and who just work for Afghanistan, rather than for their own pockets and for those of their family. If a country has a strong economy, that country can make systematic plans that would be helpful to the future of the country and the well-being of the people. Unfortunately, however, Afghanistan doesn’t have a good economy. A lot of countries have contributed to Afghanistan’s economic development but still few changes have occurred in the Afghan economy.
We lack effective ways to help poor people. Most people who don’t have legs or hands are begging. It’s should be the responsibility of the government to help such people and to make a proper program for them to work and to earn money for their families. Currently in Afghanistan there are not many factories or industries that can provide jobs for the jobless. It seems to me that most people here are just thinking about themselves and think of Afghanistan as a playground in which they play for their own benefits. Very few politicians or others want to work for the future of Afghanistan and its people.
It is also very painful that some young Afghans are addicted to drugs. They have lost their way. Seeing them below the bridges of Kabul using drugs makes me very sad.
Our educational system is not good enough. According to the Index Mundi statistics as of 2000, male literacy was 43.1% and female literacy 12.6%. [ref]See http://www.indexmundi.com/afghanistan/literacy.html. More recent statistics are not available.[/ref] and 70% of Afghans with disabilities receive no formal education at all. [ref]www.daa.org.uk.[/ref] Our education system is very old and must be reformed to meet 21st century standards. Most of the new generation of Afghanistan is open minded, struggling to advance their education and to do something for their future, but very few want to work for the benefit of Afghanistan.
For a long time, in Afghanistan there has been violence against education and women’s freedom, which is completely against Islam and against Human Rights. There is a nice saying that “if you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate a generation.” The education and participation of women in society is very important so they can overcome the many problems of life. Unfortunately, some opportunities that are provided to men are still not provided to women. But still I am very happy that the situation is improving and now many more of our Afghans girls have the chance to go to school than before. According to Oxfam, more 2.7 million girls are enrolled in school in 2012. [ref]http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2012-07-06/aid-must-work-better-afghans-next-decade.[/ref] Under the Taliban, girls were systematically denied any formal education. Women also have more opportunities to work and to help their people. But in some villages some people still actively undermine the rights of women.
Despite this and many other problems, Afghanistan is improving and people are becoming aware of what is right and what is wrong. Every day, more people now understand that peace can bring a happy life for us and can give us a better future.
What do I want for my future?
Without working hard to tackle the challenges within Afghanistan, we will not see a positive future for our country. A successful future will never come by sitting and waiting for it to just happen or by giving up. For that reason, my personal ambition is to advance my education in a productive environment where I can learn many new things.
After finishing high school I would like to go abroad and study politics and medicine with the intention of coming back to my country, Afghanistan, and work for the benefit of my fellow Afghans. I especially want to work for those who have suffered and witnessed great losses through the many years of war and conflict, and for those who continue to face the many daily problems associated with life in Afghanistan.
Children are understood to be the future of the country, but in Afghanistan, unfortunately, children can be seen working in streets of Kabul to feed their families. I want to change this situation and work to create conditions so that children can experience the happiness and security of a real childhood, with the right to an education to advance their future.
One of my personal goals is to write a book about Afghan children, with the aim of increasing local and international awareness regarding the conditions of many of our children who need better support if conditions are to improve here. We have a lot of talented children and I want to assist them to gain an education that will allow them to develop their potential for the benefit of creating a better future for Afghanistan and its people.
I want to establish an NGO which provides a network of support for Afghan children and their families in poverty by spreading a message of peace and human rights to all Afghans, while supporting the growth of education by providing a supportive learning environment for all Afghans.
In my future I want to be a person who is able to help turn the dreams of the poor people of Afghanistan into reality.
What do I want for my country’s future?
The first thing that I want for the future of my country is peace and up to the end of my life I will personally be trying my best to spread peace all over Afghanistan. My country has been devastated by more than three decades of war. The people are suffering from many problems: more than a million people have been killed and still every week many innocent people are being killed by suicide bombers and other unknown people. But Afghanistan must also have strong security capacities and the capabilities to prevent suicide attacks and to protect Afghanistan and Afghans from other forms of violence. Without strong security, education is not possible.
The second thing I want for my country’s future is educated Afghans. Many Afghans want to study but they don’t have the facilities to study. Education can bring us to the highest positions. However, for Afghans to be educated there must be a proper education system, one that gives us the ability to stand up to world standards. But education in Afghanistan is backward and so one example of the outcome of this is that many of our doctors are unqualified. Instead of curing their patients, they end up killing them by offering them the wrong treatments and medicines. The government of Afghanistan has to improve our educational situation. I want to see an Afghanistan that has professional teachers and a lot of universities with the capacity to educate people for reasons that go beyond making money. Childhood is a time for learning, for getting an education, and yet in Afghanistan, many children are working on the streets. Some are washing cars, some are selling gum or other inexpensive items, while others are simply begging for money for their families.
I also want to see the development of a government with people who are there to be of service to the people rather than [inappropriately] filling their pockets with the money earned by hardworking citizens. Corruption brings countless problems and difficulties to human society and the natural environment. We need to root out corruption from Afghan society.
Economic development is also essential for our country. A lot of people in Afghanistan are begging or working very hard for a very small amount of money. There is too much poverty everywhere — in villages, provinces and cities of Afghanistan. I want to see the day when there are busy factories across Afghanistan that provide different types of work for all those people who today are jobless and for the children who are the future of our country.
This is my dream: To see a peaceful Afghanistan with a good educational system, a strong uncorrupted government, and economic development so that our people can better develop to their potential.