The white building at the end of the unmade road is the pride of the municipality. The accounting institute established as part of the Stabilisation Programme for Northern Afghanistan (SPNA) is located on a hill in Baharak. 150 students are currently completing their training here.
The road that leads to the pride of the Baharak municipality doesn’t do the building justice. The unmade road precariously snakes up the mountain. The potholes along the way are so deep that even a car with four-wheel drive reaches its limits. Passengers’ spines are concertinaed every time the car jolts. But the building at the end of the road was very dear to the municipality in northeastern Afghanistan. And thus more important than upgrading the road.
The Baharak accounting institute is situated on the hill with a spectacular view of green valleys and snow-capped mountains. 102 boys and 48 girls are currently completing their training here. The institute is similar to a vocational school that students in Afghanistan attend after graduating from school and before going on to university. The long, white building has two floors and a large walled courtyard. The walls of the courtyard are covered in calligraphy with quotations from the Koran, encouraging people to seek education.
The municipality in the Afghan province of Badakhshan commissioned the building in 2015 and it was completed in 2017. It was agreed and financed under the Stabilisation Programme for Northern Afghanistan (SPNA). The programme was launched in 2010. Originally planned for just a few years, it was so successful that it was financed for ten years by the German Foreign Office. The programme aims to improve the infrastructure of the municipalities in northern Afghanistan, the capacities of local municipal structures in terms of good governance and development planning and the cooperation of various structures at district level.
“The programme makes life easier for people living in difficult conditions.”
Investing in the future of young people
Northern Afghanistan is a structurally weak region. Most of the population makes a living from cattle farming and agriculture. Many areas still lack access to clean water, paved roads and electricity. Moreover, the security situation in the once peaceful region has rapidly deteriorated. In recent years, radical groups like the Taliban have increasingly been able to recruit fighters from among the younger population who feel abandoned by the government. Other people leave the region to move to larger cities or flee to neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan.
To stabilise the region, KfW provided 105 million euros on behalf of the German Foreign Office: the money will be used to finance infrastructure projects in four northern provinces. KfW’s partner in the region is the Aga Khan Foundation, which oversees, for example the construction of projects. “The programme makes life easier for people living in difficult conditions,” says Dr Anja Hanisch, project manager at KfW Development Bank. The accounting institute in Baharak is one of more than 400 projects designed to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities of the people in the region.
In September, the men who contributed significantly to the implementation of the project sit in a classroom of the accounting institute and explain how they arrived at the decision. There are around a dozen of them, and they are members of the Shura Council, a kind of municipal council that represents the interests of the residents of Baharak. The men wear traditional clothing – long shirts and waistcoats – and pakols, Afghan hats. They are respected members of their community, most of them are older, their dark beards streaked with grey. “We could have also paved the roads,” says Mawlawi Fazluddin, the head of the municipal council. “But it was important for us to invest in the future of young people.” The men say they represent about 5,000 families in the district. The council uses traditional methods to find out what the people want: after the Friday prayer, the elders from the different mosques come together and discuss the needs of their community. This was how they decided to apply for funds for the institute from the stabilisation programme.
Classes are now free
Before the institute existed, the municipality had rented various buildings where students were taught. This was a problem for many families. “We had well-trained teachers and students who were willing to learn,” says Mawlawi Fazluddin, “but we also had high rental costs.” The municipality had to charge tuition fees as a result. “And not all families could afford it.” Now the classes are free. The state pays all other costs. It cost 392,000 dollars to build the institute. The fact that the municipality of Baharak not only received the funds for this purpose, but was also able to decide for itself how to use the funds is an important component of the stabilisation programme. Each municipality defines itself which projects it wants to undertake. In recent years, schools, roads, hospitals and administrative buildings have been built in the region under the Stabilisation Programme for Northern Afghanistan.
The Baharak municipality also has other plans for the institute: it wants to build a student hall of residence on the 40,000 square metre site – mainly to accommodate the female students. Many families are reluctant to send their daughters to school if it is so far away. “If we had a boarding school, we could convince more families to send their daughters to secondary school after completing their basic education,” says Mawlawi Fazluddin. There is still a lot to do, also in Baharak. “The poor roads and inadequate drinking water supply are problems that we have to tackle,” explains Mawlawi Fazluddin. “And of course at the time we assessed whether the institute was really our top priority. But in the end, we agreed that education is essential for a peaceful future in Afghanistan.”
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 4: Quality education
Refusing people access to education means depriving them of a basic human right – and of important development prospects for individuals and society. Education enables people to improve their political, social, cultural, and economic situations. Worldwide, 58 million children and 63 million young people still do not have access to primary and secondary schools. 90 per cent of all children with a disability never go to school. 781 million people are illiterate. 7.5 million people with functional illiteracy live in Germany alone.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.
Published on KfW Stories: 27 February 2020.