I went to Afghanistan twice in 2004, not long after the US invasion, on a UNICEF-backed consulting project to help rebuild the Afghan education system.
I’ve been trying my best not to think of what’s happening now in Afghanistan because I feel completely helpless. But I can’t help it.
I think about the Curriculum Writers that I worked with at the Ministry of Education in Kabul. The older writers remember a time when Kabul was hip and cool, when the universities were vibrant places, and the top performers in the civil service were sent overseas on scholarships to bring knowledge back to Afghanistan.
One Writer I met was in his 70s and he didn’t know whether he would get electricity on any given day. Every day, he would cycle for two hours to the Ministry so that we would sit together and write textbooks about the different kinds of jobs that men and women could have. Time is not a linear progression for many Afghans. Several colleagues told me that time loops for them, and things often get worse, not better. I guess they are right—again.
I also think about the strong women I met at the Ministry of Education who had very clear opinions and were not afraid to voice them.
I think about the children I met in the schools that I visited. They were curious, asked a ton of questions, spoke articulately, and many girls had interesting and colorful designs and patterns on their shoes and leggings, finding different ways to express themselves. I wonder what is going to happen to them.
I think about what knowledge Afghan children will need to have for very, very basic survival.
I think about the buildings in Kabul. Almost every one I saw had bullet-holes in them.
I think about the disappointment and resignation the Afghan people must feel.