07 June 2013

Herat Technical Institute in Afghanistan
Nasar Faizi, who heads Liberty Corporation, strongly encourages the HTI-local industry linkage. He finds the students quick to learn and welcomes a partnership with JRS.
Herat, 22 May 2013 – When Br. Noel Oliver came to Afghanistan in April 2005, experienced in technical and vocational training in India and Cambodia, the country was just emerging from almost three decades of conflict, and a near total state of destruction.

According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), in July 2005, there were 15,000 students enrolled in 42 technical and vocational education centers in Afghanistan. Most schools were in disrepair, lacking competent teachers and training equipment, and following an outdated curriculum. 

Cycling down the streets of Herat city in Western Afghanistan, Br. Noel came upon one such technical school with 67 students, including 24 girls, crammed in four dilapidated rooms.

 “From my very first meeting with Mr. Karimi, the director, I felt convinced that together we could transform this school into a vibrant training centre for the much-needed Afghan workforce,” Br. Noel explained. 

In recognition of the rapid progress, the MoE added Grades  13 and 14, raising the school in 2006 to the Herat Technical Institute (HTI). Accompanying the institute, JRS has assisted HTI by providing staff capacity building and student training in English, mathematics, physics, and computer literacy. JRS also offers trade courses in electricity and construction.

By the end of 2006, where a small school was once falling apart, thanks to international support and the cooperation of the Education Department,  JRS was able to set up a new four-floor building. By 2008, more classrooms were built to meet the demand of students hungering for a good education. In late 2011, construction began on a new building to add lab space and accommodate HTI’s 1028 students, including 180 girls, from all over the country.

Freshta, Saeida and Fatema* bubble with excitement as they share their experiences: “At the HTI, we have a wonderful opportunity to pursue higher studies as women. We feel safe on the campus, and experience a healthy atmosphere to learn and exchange ideas with our teachers and classmates in spacious classrooms and laboratories”, Freshta said.

HTI was named the best technical skills training Institute in Afghanistan in 2009. And in 2012, HTI was declared the best in academic excellence and practical training, by the MoE. 

As a child, Mohammad Edris enjoyed fixing electrical appliances in his elder brother’s shop in Herat.  

“It all began as a childhood hobby. I was a just an eight year old boy then”, Edris said.

Discovering his talent, the HTI teachers encouraged him to work on electronic circuits, which turned into a passion for designing new circuits. With Omid and Hamid, his classmates in the HTI electricity department, he designed an award-winning “electronic lock”.

The strength of HTI lies in the quality training it provides in the classroom, the laboratory, and the field. Grade 13 students apprentice in one of 42 private companies, where they get hands-on experience, and meet potential employers.

 In order to promote the HTI model, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) has begun intensive HTI staff training to mentor and support a cluster of technical institutes in western Afghanistan.

Nasar Faizi, who heads Liberty Corporation, strongly encourages the HTI-local industry linkage. He finds the students quick to learn and welcomes a partnership with JRS.

“While impressed by the HTI training, I also send some of my team (HTI alumni) to provide specialised training to the staff”, Faizi said. 

To meet challenge of training tomorrow’s workforce, JRS is now preparing to take another strategic step forward with engineer Aminullah Farhadi, the new HTI director.  JRS plans to offer the students blended online learning courses with face-to-face classroom teaching through the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education on the Margins (JC:HEM) project to enhance the students’ academic and practical competence to meet the emerging market needs.

JRS continues to engage in building capacity of the Afghan community through education in Herat, Kabul, Bamiyan and Daikundi Provinces. As we build up HTI as a replicable model, we teach at universities, train school teachers, conduct English language training, and provide formal and non-formal education to returnee children. JRS especially  focuses on girls and those who lack access to quality education. Working with like-minded partners, we strive to bring hope and give the Afghan youth a chance to forge a future of hope and prosperity for themselves and their country.

“Since we share the same goal of empowering the war-affected Afghan youth, I would like to work closely with JRS in empowering the people through the last hope we have – our students”, Faizi said.

Swaminathan Krishnamurthy and Hamid Wahidy (JRS Afghanistan)

*Names changed to protect identity

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