A new $23 million grant from USAID will allow the University of Massachusetts, UMass, to extend and expand its work in Afghanistan. The grant is part of a five-year, $92 million project designed to strengthen higher education in Afghanistan by way of a consortium headed by Family Health International, a group that includes Purdue University, the UMass College of Education, the Afghan Holding Group and Altai Consulting. “We will continue to build on the foundations with the Ministry of Higher Education [of Afghanistan],” said David R. Evans, director of the UMass College of Education’s Center for International Education.
Evans said that UMass will be able to provide training for students to meet the demands of a growing and changing economy. “We will be creating associate degrees and revitalizing some new bachelors degrees and new masters,” he said. Joseph B. Berger, the College of Education’s associate dean for research and engagement added “We’re very dedicated to improving higher education in Afghanistan. This is a way to support what has become a mission for us.”
The grant comes at a critical time for higher education in Afghanistan, which has recently faced increasing violence. Women’s rights in Afghanistan, including access to higher education, where only 22 per cent of the faculty in universities and only 42 per cent of the student body are female, also remain a divisive and unresolved issue. As American and other western forces withdraw from the region, issues of access to and quality of education have drawn increased focus. It remains to be seen whether the continued involvement of western institutions will make a discernable difference in Afghani educational practices.
Creative Commons Love: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on Flickr.com