|1LT Jesse Hardy, the 3-19th ADT Platoon Leader, engages in a friendly soccer volley with Gharghash High students.|
If you've read this blog in the past, you're well aware of our Future Farmers of Afghanistan project. The initiative, designed to aid in leadership development among Afghan youth, is proceeding better than many of us could have ever envisioned.
|Gharghash High School Principal Ajap Pan provides an update to Major |
Jeremy Gulley. Pan was extremely pleased to learn that Gulley was also
a high school principal.
Our most recent quality assurance visit, a May 21st trip to Gharghash High School, was by far the most inspiring check-in to date. With only a few hours notice, the school's principal- Ajap Pan, agreed to meet us during the rotation period surrounding lunch, where the morning students begin their journey home and the afternoon pupils arrive hungry for knowledge.
As we first arrived the school, Major Jeremy Gulley- an Education Officer on the team and Principal of Huntington North High School back in the civilian world, greeted the Gharghash High School Principal. Before our interpreter could even finish his translation, the smile across the Afghan Principal's face exuded his delight in knowing that he was conversing with a fellow educator. This is another great example of why Agribusiness Development Teams are such an anomaly amongst military units. How often do you see a high school principal leaving his suit and tie at the dry cleaner for a year, only to throw on his camouflage fatigues?
A popular past time for children across the country of Afghanistan includes asking service members for pens. "Qalam? Qalam?" is a frequent request of most every child you meet while out amongst the population. Just as their counterparts in the United States, behavior levels among students vary quite drastically as you travel the province. As some young men will literally steal the pens out of your pocket, it is critical to keep anything of value out of sight from these kleptomaniacs.
After speaking with the principal in the courtyard, our group moved into the agricultural portion of the school grounds. In an effort to cut down on pedestrian thru-traffic and vandalism, each of the agricultural kits are fenced off into a private area.
|Reminders of Home|
One issue that schools have noted within the original design of the greenhouse is the lack of ventilation. After the initial construction of the project kits, the schools took full ownership of the sites and were free to do as they saw necessary to ensure a functioning agricultural environment.
One of the first things Gharghash leaders did was arrange for ventilation screens to be cut into each end of the greenhouse. This kind of improvisation is encouraged as a part of the Future Farmers of Afghanistan project, as a sort of field-expedient problem solving. This is also inspiring to think of in terms of the sustainability of these agricultural kits. When the United States is long gone from Afghanistan, young men and women who are confident in their skills will have the mental capacity and experience to act on an issue, whenever and wherever those issues will inevitably arise.
|A Proud Principal|
|Preparing for Prayer|
Another issue we discussed with Principal Pan that was dear to my heart was the sale of goods grown inside the greenhouse or from the solar dehydrator. I was ecstatic to learn that eggs layed in the poultry coop had already been sold at a local bazaar, with the profits reinvested into the upkeep of the farm. The sale of products produced on the farm will not only give students a wonderful experience in marketing, but also ensure that the farm is around for decades to come.
To see that the horse we led to water drank voluntarily, was a very rewarding experience. We're all very well aware that only the Afghan people can ultimately decide what the future of their country looks like. We on the 3-19th ADT will have the satisfaction of knowing, in our short year on the ground here in Khowst, that we planted the seed for invaluable youth development and leadership programs.
The future is wide open and based on a plethora of variables, but if other provincial schools are able to model the initiative those at Gharghash High School have taken; rest assured that the Future Farmers of Afghanistan will continue to play a major role in the development of this country's next generation of leaders.
|Colleagues in Education - two high school principals, from schools that are separated by 7,500 miles and several|
zeros in their budgets; part ways after a May 21st visit to Gharghash High School in Khowst Province.