Fresh for the Plucking?

If the Taliban were to launch an ambitious recruiting campaign across Afghanistan in the next few weeks, odds are they will find hundreds if not thousands of despairing young men who have been turned down by the handful institutions of higher learning in the country and face grim and unknown futures. These are members of the post-Taliban generation of high school graduates who have long dreamed of gaining a university education -as evidenced by their widespread participation in the university entry exams- and are suddenly finding out that those dreams are shattered -and all for no fault of theirs.

Afghanistan’s few universities are already operating above capacity, and now for another consecutive year university officials have had to turn down some 38,000 candidates who participated in the matriculation exams -a figure nearly double that of last year’s, and representing nearly two thirds of this year’s university hopefuls.

According to a BBC Persian report by journalist Dawood Naji from Kabul, as more and more students graduate from high schools across the country and a greater number of these decide to take part in the university entry exams, authorities will have to refuse entry to an ever increasing number of students. The report cites an estimate by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Learning that in 10 years the number of university candidates will reach a million students per year while the capacity of Afghanistan’s universities will peak at merely 100,000 – only one in ten students will have the opporturnity to attend university. Already the issue is spoken of as “Afghanistan’s crisis of higher education.”

It is easy to foresee where all of this is headed for: The end of the Taliban era was marked by an explosion in primary school enrollments (approximately 4 million for each of the past two years.) As this boom generation reaches high school and later graduates, competition will worsen and universities will be overwhelmed. Just as investment in higher education will ensure a future generation of educated citizens and skilled workers for the country’s reconstruction, neglecting to address this mounting crisis will spawn hundreds of thousands of young people who are too educated and ambitious to settle for the traditional farming and labor employments, and too unprepared and unskilled to fill jobs in the public and private sectors that demand specific skills and a university degree – such a generation of ambitious discontents is sure to provide extremist and irredentist causes with fresh recruits thirsty for a certain future and a sense of meaning and belonging.


6 Responses to Fresh for the Plucking?

  1. Azad says:

    “Afghanistan’s crisis of higher education,” Well said.

    One my last visit to Bamiyan I was left speechless to find students of grade 5 actually in charge of grade 2 at the local primary school. Crisis is probably the word fairly suited for this situation, and besides the whole situation is nothing less than a crisis.
    Perhaps the coalition might think of outsourcing Afghanistan’s educational system to private contractors because that way, even if there is no education, those let down could be kept busy in confusion rather than despair.
    Looking at the influx of cash into and out of the country and of course looking at the increasing number of limoz at the gates of ministers and NGOs, it is easy to figure out where all the funds and investments are headed for or where all the let down youth are headed for.

  2. hatif says:

    dear hamisha,
    you are right. However, there are some details (specifically related to the students’ ethnicity) about which many people hate to talk nowadays– in fear of hurting the socalled national unity. It is reported that the misfortune (being refused to university admission) has been distributed along the ethnic lines , and that is a fact that may defy your depiction of the situation where you think that the Taliban can invest in the turned-down population of disappointed students. If some one infers , from the connection that you have made between the Taliban and the failed students, that it is the pashtun young men and women who have been hit hard this year, he or she will be wrong. The fate of the young people of other ethnics is murkier, because they will not be accepted even by the Taliban. Please correct me if i have misunderstood your points.

  3. […] reports that there are too few university spots for eligible students in Afghanistan and that the problem is only getting worse. The blogger argues that failing to provide education […]

  4. […] Musharraf in the past, and now has said that Pakistan desires to make Afghanistan its puppet. This report on potential targets for Taliban recruiting underscores why Karzai might be […]

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