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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Afghan universities appeal for help
Women students at Kabul University
Women are back on the campus in Kabul
The chancellor of Kabul University, Akbar Popal, is in Britain to try to drum up support for Afghan students after the years of war.

One of the biggest changes flowing from the fall of the Taleban is that women are once more allowed an education.

But there are still very few women taking part in higher education, not least because they have been denied a schooling.

This year only eight women have been selected to study medicine in Kabul, for instance.

Women make up about a fifth of the intake of 4,000 students.

"After almost five or six years the universities have been reopened for the female students and women staff members and I believe they are taking active participation in higher education now," Dr Popal said.

"Of course I would like to see more of them and I believe they are coming gradually to universities from different neighbouring countries and from inside Afghanistan."

Personal issues

As far as the government was concerned there was no problem now with women's participation in university life, he said.

He acknowledged that there might be personal problems, perhaps arising from widowhood or simply the fear of going out.

"That could be solved if they are discussing that with us."

Evening courses were to be re-started for women - and for men - who were working to support their families during the day, he added.

Sorry state

He was seeking the support of UK universities and other institutions in rebuilding the country's higher education facilities.

Dr Popal and a colleague in charge of reconstruction are in the UK until Friday, on a visit facilitated by the British Council and paid for by the Foreign Office.

Kabul University, founded in 1947, was once a fine institution.

But the years of fighting and oppression have reduced much of it to rubble.

It lacks the most basic amenities, such as water and electricity, let alone any modern technology.

Need for expertise

Olga Stanojlovic, the British Council's director for Africa and South Asia - who was in Kabul earlier this year - said that rebuilding the fabric was relatively straightforward.

"The problem they have is they have lost a lot of their human expertise - a lot of academic experts left or were killed during the troubles over the last 23 years," she said.

"So they have got a number of very young staff in place and haven't got all the posts filled.

"They are very able and in partnership with friends from other countries and the international community they can re-establish themselves as a very fine university that can play its part in Afghanistan's rehabilitation."

English language

One practical thing the council was likely to do was to set up an English language resource centre in Kabul, which would help academics there get more from using the internet.

Kabul is not the only university, there are some 16 higher education institutions around the country.

But it is "the mother" of the country's higher education system and the focus of academic input into the country's reconstruction.

What the UK could provide was help in taking a strategic view of what needed to be done, Ms Stanojlovic said.

See also:

06 Feb 02 | South Asia
19 Dec 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
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