Can Afghanistan hang on to its newly minted college grads?
The American University of Afghanistan held its first graduation Thursday. In a country that has experienced sharp brain drain, the hope is that more young Afghan university graduates will stay to help rebuild the country.
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In this environment, it is not uncommon to find people with university degrees working low-level jobs throughout Afghanistan. The problem is particularly pronounced among medical students. With only a limited number of residencies available in Kabul, a number of students are asked to complete their hospital tours in the provinces. Due to safety concerns many refuse, leaving them unable to complete their degree.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Graduation 2011
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The job hunt
Among AUAF's first graduating class, most graduates either had jobs or a master's program lined up after completing their undergraduate degree. Some hold government jobs, some nonprofit, and a few have started their own businesses. Many of the students actually held jobs throughout the course of their studies. And university officials proudly say that several government ministries actively recruit among the student body.
While at least one AUAF student worked as a janitor before starting his studies, others came from prominent families in Afghanistan. At $5,500 per year, the tuition remains an astronomical sum for the average Afghan family, though AUAF provides varying amounts of financial aid to 70 percent of its students.
A number of students say AUAF was worth the investment compared with government or other private universities because it offers a relevant curriculum.
“At AUAF, you can apply what they teach you to your job,” says Lida Nadery, one of AUAF’s first graduates.
Unlike other institutions, it does not face government regulations that often create challenges for universities here. Aside from complaints about outdated teaching methods, public universities must contend with the added challenge that Afghan law forbids public institutions from charging tuition.
“The problem with Afghanistan’s higher education is that the government has a lot of control and there is resistance to reform,” says Sharif Fayez, former minister of higher education and founder of AUAF.