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Kabul University to Get Help from US School - 2002-03-05

Purdue University - a midwestern U.S. school that specializes in agriculture and engineering - has signed an agreement with Afghanistan to help rebuild Kabul University. Purdue was active in creating the engineering department at Kabul University in the 1960s.

Purdue has a long history of international university building. The school played a major role in the creation of educational institutions in Africa and South America as well as in Afghanistan.

Wallace Tyner, the head of Purdue's Department of Agricultural Engineering, says the prime goal of the Kabul University project will be to get Afghan agriculture moving again. "Of course to do that, they need a university that is doing research and teaching and then extending that out into the rural areas, and that's what we do," he says. "That's what we do in Indiana and in Morocco and West Africa and other parts of the world and we'll be doing - hopefully - the same thing there [in Kabul]."

Mr. Tyner says Purdue is seeking funding for the project from U.S. and international agencies. "The idea would be that we would send some faculty there [to Kabul] who would work for a few years and then they would be replaced by Afghans returning after having received advanced degrees here [in the U.S.]," he says. "And if we're successful, over a ten year period, we will have rebuilt the University and have the classes taught and the curriculum being managed by Afghans."

The agreement was pushed by Purdue's faculty, many of whom, as a result of the 40 year relationship between the two universities, are former Kabul University professors.

Purdue technology professor Zarjon Baha, for example, was Dean of Kabul's school of Engineering in the 1970s. "The School of engineering was an exceptional school in that region," he says. "I would say one of the best. Ninety percent of the faculty were graduates of U.S. schools."

Mr. Baha says many Kabul faculty members fled to the United States when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. "We have lots of our graduates from the faculty of engineering here and they are in very successful positions, deans of schools and senior engineers in the Aerospace industry," says Mr. Baha. "They have their own companies, some of them, and some are working with various industries."

Mr. Baha says many would be willing to leave their successful positions temporarily to help rebuild their alma mater.

The first team from Purdue University is scheduled to go to Afghanistan this month.