Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FOSS in Afghanistan

Dr, Maria Beebe

Tonight we are listening to Maria A. Beebe, PhD, talking about E-Learning in Afghanistan. She's with Afghan eQuality Alliances.

Afghanistan is of course made up of a large number of ethnic groups, prone to feuding. Negotiating peace amidst power struggles is naturally difficult. Anthropologist Dupree (1973) talks about alternating phases of fusion and fission when giving the history.

Islamic law supports womens' education, but of course ethnicities vary in their interpretations of this law. The Taliban, many of them orphans, may have an especially harsh approach because of their sense of abandonment.

Women have come into higher education. Women were encouraged to become engineers under the Russians. University learning was discouraged during subsequent years, under Mujahideen and Taliban.

Implementing E-learning has involved building computer centers and setting up standards. Pairing lecturers with US universities was a priority, with a focus on getting more engineers.

A masters program in public policy and administration was set up as well, so that policies might emerge with a sense of ownership, not simply imposed by the UN, World Bank, NATO or whatever.

Chisimba is being used for distance learning purposes. University of the Western Cape has provided some technical support.

This is a USG-funded project, with NATO providing the international bandwidth via satellite.

Some bandwidth comes from Iran, although a USG-funded program is not supposed to pay for that piece, given feuding between those states.

Women who tasted university-style education when still in their 20s during the Russian period, are among those most eager to see higher education making more inroads under Grunch.

The French would like to stop criminalizing drug production (lift Prohibition), as the world craves opiates, always has.

That's a more enlightened approach than the USG is able to muster of course, given its puritanical roots and sense of entitlement when it comes to world policing. The Drug Wars rage on.

This higher education program was not dependent on US military or private security contractors. On the contrary, US armored vehicles and personnel carrying weapons are actively discouraged from visiting the campuses, as this makes them targets for military actions by opposing groups, of which there are many.

Internet and campus neutrality are important policies where freedom from armed conflict is concerned. Armed conflict, an expression of ignorance, lack of intelligent planning and skills, is not conducive to studying (a vicious circle).

FOSS in Afghanistan