Doctors in waiting . . . for rockets

April 12, 1996

It is springtime in Afghanistan where Kabul University has been de-mined and is ready to open. Christine Aziz reports

At the medical faculty, one of the few campus buildings that has remained standing, a crowd of students are chatting in the forecourt, and although the men and women keep themselves voluntarily apart there is a lot of flirting.

Mhanaz Parvani, 21, is chatting excitedly with her friends. A third-year medical student, she is undaunted by the faculty's empty lecture rooms and laboratories filled with water from melted snow and rain.

"We students cannot afford to buy notebooks or pens, and there are no books in the library apart from a few out-of-date health journals. We want to do something for our country. Our people need us. The country needs doctors especially."

Najibullah-Yaqoubi, in his fifth year of medical studies, remembers the university under rocket attack in 1992 when five of his friends and a lecturer were killed. During the three-year closure Najibullah worked at the Jamhuriat Hospital. "Let's say it was a long practical," he said. The government will pay for students' studies and transport. "Most of us are so poor we just have to manage as we can. Relatives help and some of us are lucky to find work. You have to be very determined to be a student in Afghanistan."

Safora Wardak, a biology lecturer for first-year students, does not share the hope and optimism of her students. "I have been here nine years and am defeated. The standards are not good because the students have so many problems. They have all suffered from the war. Everybody has someone who has been killed in the war, and many of them have lost their homes. There is no electricity so they have to study by candlelight. I don't have any instruments to teach them with, but the government provides paper." She earns 50,000 Afghans (Pounds 6.90) a month. A tin of coffee costs 70,000 Afghans.

Her colleague Abdul Shukar ignores the present, preferring to talk about a future in which he will be teaching at a foreign university. "We all want to leave. There's nothing here. Nothing. We had a lot of good books here. But they were stolen by the Mujahideen who sold them in Pakistan. We are teaching here and waiting for rockets."

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