Raymond and I will not visit the village this trip because the majority of the villagers have decided enough is enough. Lalander has been governed by three Maliks (leaders) with whom the villagers have become dissatisfied. One Malik has resisted the effort to educate girls, effectively limiting the number who have been able to attend school. All are accused of "putting money in their pockets". When NGOs (non government organizations) go to villages to provide assistance, they invariably end up working with the designated leaders, known as Maliks. Skimming money off the top or not completing work for which the Maliks have received advances is "pocket money". Favoring their relatives with the contracts and money they receive is common. All of these activities are listed under the heading of "Corruption". Trust In Education has worked directly with the villagers and Afghannedin, the leader of the Shura (village council). The Maliks have always been consulted but the money has purposely not flowed through their hands. The creation of a Shura within Lalander was a recommendation we made a year and a half ago, to allow for more participation in the decision making process and to promote transparency. The villagers have asked the District governor to appoint one Malik and, not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly support Afghannedin. By his detractors he is viewed as "our guy". Raymond and I arrived in the middle of what was described as an election process but in actuality was a day set aside to air grievances and to support candidates. Villagers whose homes in Lalander are destroyed and who are now living in Kabul, took taxis and buses to vote. Lalander is almost an hour and a half ride from Kabul. The District Governor has now taken the matter under advisement. We had dinner at his house two nights ago. He plans to proceed slowly and carefully. He's been governor for 50 days and recognizes there is significant house cleaning to be done in the entire district. Finding leaders who won't "put money in their pocket" is not easy. Afghanistan is the fifth poorest country in the world and the overwhelming majority of its people are operating in the survival mode. Maslow was right about the "hierarchy of needs theory." Food, clothing and shelter come first. The positive news is that the end result will be the creation of a village government that is open and trusted by the villagers. There have been no threats to anyone, including Raymond and I. But, the tension between the camps is high. On their recommendation we have decided to remain in Kabul.
Educating Girls -- One Class at a Time The classes offered for girls inside homes are going extremely well. One location will triple is program from 36 students to over 125. I will visit another potential location today. We're able to add more classes thanks to you. The incremental cost of adding classes is less than $150 a month. The number of girls who are not able to attend government schools is staggering, even inside Kabul. It's not just a capacity problem. There are parents who simply will not allow their daughters to attend classes, unless they are taught in neighborhood homes. For some it's a security issue. Others, just don't see the value of educating girls. Peer pressure forces them to allow their daughters to attend classes offered in their neighborhoods. It's difficult to hold your daughter back when she watches her friends head off to a "safe" school.
Sowing Seeds Tomorrow morning we will be distributing seeds and fertilizer to 70 farmers in the Char Asiab district (population 70,000) I was able to meet with the Afghan minister of Agriculture (big boss). We had a very productive 17 minutes. He assigned someone in his ministry to provide us with whatever technical expertise they have to provide training for the farmers. The first training class will be given tomorrow when the seeds and fertilizer are distributed. Last year's tomato and onion seed planting experiment proved convincingly that the farmers are generating yields way below their capacities. What they need is better seeds, fertilizer and once again the big E, Education. Anyone have a few thousand pounds of fertilizer lying around? By the way American fertilizer is "the best", so we're "buying American".
ART -- THE FUN CLASS!!!!!! I visited the art class and encountered 40 extremely happy and active children. I was shocked to discover that there were boys and girls in the class. The art class is the only class in the entire district which boys and girls are allowed to attend. According to the teacher the boys "fight too much, make too much noise, and the girls are nice." I told her about the debate being waged in some American schools regarding whether girls should be educated separately from boys. She smiled and gave the knowing nod.
The War for Hearts and Minds All in all the programs are progressing very well. We're different than anything the villagers have ever experienced. We're grass roots, we keep coming back, and we work with them to identify and establish priorities. We're also very effective in minimizing the "pocket problem". In short, Trust in Education has gained the trust of the people. I've often thought that perhaps the better name for our organization would be "Trust And Education". Both are essential elements in bringing about change. Our only shortcoming in their eyes is our inability to work in other areas. We're starting to explore moving some programs down the road. Your generosity has made that possible. There's "miles to go"... but, not until I return home and have a few cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and fries. I function under the hierarchy of needs theory myself. The first need in the hierarchy is FOOD!
Budd MacKenzie Trust In Education