Zaher Wahab – Educational Leader Extraordinaire

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NOTE:  I’ve just received a note from my mentor, friend and colleague, Dr. Zaher Wahab.  A few years ago, Zaher retired his position as a professor.  We were faculty colleagues for 24 years.  Throughout his 40 years in the professoriate, he returned regularly to his homeland in Afghanistan.  Here is what he wrote today:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Greetings from Kabul. Yes, I know I have not written to you since last August. It is a case of procrastination, but also of being extremely busy and tired.

Last Fall, I continued teaching in the MA program for university instructors, and in an MA program in Public Policy for mid-career people in various organizations, at Kabul University. Both are supported by the USAID, one of the few sane and worthy operations. 

I thought it would be a short-term voluntary venture, but was persuaded to accept a full time position with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) starting January 1, 2014. Though the University then did not have a single professor in education or any education program, it was lured by money from the World Bank and the Ministry of Education to launch an MA program for instructors from the 42 two-year Teacher Training Colleges in the country.

It seems that administrators cannot resist $, no matter. And, I was given the task of making this happen!  I accepted the challenge, seeing an opportunity to make a big difference. So, essentially, I designed the program, hired the 20 expat and mostly local instructors, set the rules, regulations and policies, lead the program, and teach in it too. The Ministry chose the 320 participants (80 of them women). It is the most diverse group of people I have worked with anywhere, and a huge challenge.

I made a decision that of the 20 instructors, 10 would be women, and I hired primarily young university instructors, mostly my former students or coworkers over the years.  No nepotism, corruption or tribalism. When I found out that all 12 of the class reps were men, I told them this was not acceptable and they must redo this. Some are stunned by some of what I do, but most seem to love it given what goes on in the country.?????????????????????????????

The students range from bright to dull, mostly young, but a few old people. I don’t tolerate cheating, lying, whining, sloth or excuses. We have a very modern, fully equipped building in the nicest part of the city-thanks to private US $. Students are served breakfast and lunch, they do not pay, and they continue to receive their salaries at their places of work. I think all education should be free to all.

Due to continuous violence, we have had four lock-downs, including yesterday and the day before.  We, the foreign workers, were evacuated for ten days to Dubai just before the election in early April. You may also have read that early this year, one of our brilliant American law profs and a woman staff member – both American – were killed at a restaurant; and the three American doctors killed a few weeks ago worked at a hospital just a few yards from AUAF. 

We are not allowed to go to any restaurants. Actually, we live like minimum security prisoners. I cannot step outside the thick wired walls surrounding the fortress-like campus. And I pretty much work all the time. Thick blast walls, armed guards all over, watch towers with snipers , two security belts, searches, safe rooms, wearing your ID card all the time, etc. are facts of life. So, yes, there is life after retirement!

I read about Portland and the US regularly. I like what I am doing, but at times, I yearn for time to myself. We are all one. I hope all is well with all of you. You may share this as/if you wish.

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