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May 5, 2003

Afghan faculty learn at Purdue, receive donated computers, texts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Four members of the faculty of Kabul University will share the latest in teaching techniques with their colleagues in Afghanistan after spending a few weeks on the Purdue University campus learning current trends in academics and computer-use in the classroom.

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When the Kabul faculty members return to Afghanistan this week, they also will soon have 40 used computers donated by Purdue and more than 165 donated textbooks, reference materials, syllabi and CD-based educational materials contributed by faculty members from the Purdue School of Agriculture.

The Kabul faculty trained at Purdue with funding from an Association Liason Office grant. Shipping costs for the donated computers and educational materials are being paid by gift funds, and the materials will arrive on a military humanitarian—aid transport. Additional assistance for the project has come from the Afghan Center and St. Vincent DePaul.

The visiting Afghan professors represented agriculture and engineering programs and worked with Purdue faculty in both disciplines. Two Afghan educators, Nastratullah Akbarzad, an agricultural economics professor and Mohammad Homayon Naseri, a professor of computer science, received computer training at Purdue.

"They learned how to troubleshoot computers and how to use computers in academic classes," said Ray Eberts, director of Continuing Engineering Education and an associate professor of industrial engineering.

Akbarzad said the trip to Purdue more than exceeded his expectations, but rebuilding Kabul's curriculum will take time. "This was the first step of a long term program," he said. "We look forward to establishing computer labs and distance learning programs."

The donated computers will be installed in four computer labs. The labs will be created at the Education University, the agriculture and engineering departments at Kabul University and at the Polytechnic Institute in Kabul.

Eberts and Kevin McNamara, Purdue professor of agricultural economics, traveled to Kabul last year.

"We assessed the needs of the faculty at Kabul and asked for donated materials that would help them improve the course content of their classes," said McNamara, who organized the educational materials' donation effort. "The Afghan faculty identified improving their teaching programs as an immediate need, and one that we at Purdue were able to assist in."

Kabul Faculty members Obaidullah Akbari, an animal science professor and Ghulam Naseri, a forestry professor, spent 10 days with Purdue agriculture faculty, learning about undergraduate programs and new teaching methods and technologies.

"Our trip to Purdue was very fruitful," said Akbari. "We now hope to apply what we've learned back in Afghanistan."

In noting the more than 20,000 students who applied to Kabul University this year, Ghulam Naseri said it's clear that those in Afghanistan want to move on. "Our people want peace, security and education," he said.

Most of Kabul University's academic resources were ravaged during 10 years of Taliban rule and later war. Labs, equipment and supplies were ruined. Currently many of the faculty are under-trained, using teaching materials that are 20 to 30 years old. Kabul's research farms also were destroyed, including the irrigation systems and plant production equipment, McNamara said.

Purdue's partnership with Kabul began last year after a visit to campus by the Afghan minister of higher education and several Afghan expatriates. Purdue has agreed to offer the Afghan university assistance in rebuilding its programs in agriculture and engineering.

In the next phase, Purdue agriculture and engineering faculty plan to travel to Kabul this summer. Engineering faculty will go to assist with set-up of the computer labs. Two agriculture faculty members will also travel to Afghanistan to continue working with Kabul's agriculture school on curriculum development, faculty training and redevelopment of the school's 20-acre on-campus research farm.

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722; forbes@purdue.edu

Sources:    Kevin McNamara, (765) 494-4236

  Ray Eberts, (765) 494-0212

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Related Web sites:
Purdue/Kabul efforts

PHOTO CAPTION:
Afghan faculty members Obaidullah Akbari, Mohammad Naseri and Nastratullah Akbarzad examine some of the textbooks donated to Kabul University. Purdue is also sending 40 used computers donated to establish computer labs at Kabul. (Purdue Agricultural Communications Photo by Mike Kerper)

A publication-quality photograph is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/. Photo ID: mcnamara.afghan


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