DEL MAR, Calif. – A local rotary club funding education programs for boys and girls in Afghanistan says they’re cautiously optimistic after the Taliban paid their Afghan colleagues a visit to discuss the work they’ve been doing.
The La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club opened a school in 2004 in Jalalabad, one of Afghanistan’s major cities. Since then, the nonprofit also funded computer labs in nearly every high school in the city and the main university – Nagarhar University – among other programs. The program services thousands of both boys and girls.
“We are so well known in Jalalabad it has its own brand,” said Steve Brown with the rotary club. “We call it Afghan Youth Connected at the high school level.”
With the swift take over of the city and country, Brown and his Afghan colleagues were not only deeply concerned for safety, but also for their long-standing education program.
Since equal education is a top priority, Brown thought the program was in trouble. He said Afghan families were hiding from the Taliban. But much to their surprise, a meeting with a Taliban official offered some hope.
“It turns out that the Taliban person that is in charge of Nagarhar Province for supervising higher education, which includes Nagahar University, is a graduate of Nagahar University, of their college of education,” Brown said. “He also has a degree in physics and a masters degree that he obtained from Nagahar University.”
Brown said the Taliban member applauded their work, including the education of girls and young women. That’s been part of the narrative Taliban leaders have been pushing lately, too.
Brown said the Taliban even offered security for the schools.
“The fact that this has not only come down to the province level and that there are people that are actually step forward wanted to meet with our people and learn about our program and ask us to continue, that’s a whole different level of communication,” he said.
Still, Brown said he will move forward slowly as actions speak louder than words.