Director-general visits AfghanistanParis/Islamabad - UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will visit Kabul on January 11 to offer UNESCO’s support to the Afghan administration in its work to rebuild the country. Mr Matsuura is undertaking the journey to take stock personally of the Afghanistan’s immediate and longer-term needs in education, culture, science and communication.
During his visit to Kabul, Mr Matsuura will meet Chairman Hamid Karzai; Vice-Chairman in charge of Women’s Affairs Sima Samar; Foreign Affairs Minister Adbullah Abdullah; Education Minister Abdul Rasoul Amin; Higher Education Minister Sharif Faez; Information and Culture Minister Raheen Makhdoom; as well as the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.
In education, an immense amount of work lies ahead. One priority is to help the Education Ministry meet the challenge of re-opening Afghanistan’s schools on March 22. A meeting with local educational authorities will be held in the very near future to consider urgent steps in an environment marked by the destruction of a great many school buildingsand by the departure of many teachers from the teaching profession.
It is also urgent to tackle the future direction of the Afghan educational system in a concerted manner. Major questions to be addressed in this context include the choice of teaching languages, defining the contents of school textbooks and curricula, and the place of religion in education. The respective roles and responsibilities of the central, regional and local authorities in the educational process will also have to be clearly defined.
UNESCO will support Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development work which will, inevitably, take several years. The Organization will focus on assisting in the creation of an efficient education ministry, the improvement of teacher training, and the development of curricula and textbooks not only for primary schools, but also for secondary, technical and higher education. It will also launch a major community radio programme to provide basic education for populations which, for nearly 25 years, have been kept out of all types of educational systems, women in particular.
Much is expected of UNESCO in the field of culture, especially concerning the safeguard of Afghanistan’s heritage that has been seriously damaged by the Taliban regime. Rebuilding the museum of Kabul is a high priority in this area, as is the restoration of a great many Islamic and pre-Islamic monuments. The Culture Minister of Afghanistan has already requested UNESCO’s support in organizing a meeting of experts to study possible action in the aftermath of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.
UNESCO will also contribute to reconstruction in other fields. The independent publication Kabul Weekly will, thus, be re-launched with the help of the non-governmental organization AÏNA for the development of independent media, of UNESCO, and of Reporters without Borders. The Organization will also provide assistance in training the personnel of the national television broadcaster Kabul TV.
Beside providing technicaland logistical support, UNESCO’s main objective is to promote consensus within Afghan society regarding the place and purpose of education, cultural heritage preservation, and communication. It intends to mobilize over the coming years the support of intellectuals and academics in the Afghan diaspora for the reconstruction of the country and for national reconciliation.
Mr Matsuura will travel to Afghanistan via Islamabad (Pakistan) where he will meet the country’s Head of State, General Pervez Musharraf, and several government ministers on January 10. He will give a press conference upon his return to Islamabad on January 12, at 4.15 p.m.
It will be possible to contact the Director-General’s spokesperson, Muriel de Pierrebourg, through UNESCO’s office in Islamabad during the visit: tel. +92 51 282 94 53 - +92 51 282 94 52 - fax +92 51 282 53 41