Talented Afghan students are coming to Erfurt to learn about public policy. They hope to go back to their country armed with the skills to take up leading positions in ministries or in non-governmental organizations.
The students are among the most talented in Afghanistan
Since 2008, a number of young Afghans have been coming to study at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt in central Germany. They learn how to govern countries effectively. The students have an ambitious goal: to build a peaceful, democratic state in Afghanistan, and to rid the country of terror and violence.
In the future, these students hope to form the Afghan elite, to find jobs in government ministries or NGOs. After a six-month preparatory program entitled "Good Governance in Afghanistan," the students are ready to begin a Masters course in public policy.
High hopes and clear ambitions
Moheb Jarbakhail is one of 27 young Afghans at the Willy Brandt School. The 25-year-old says he wants to return to Kabul at the end of his course, armed with skills he has learned.
"People like myself can make a significant difference to Afghanistan for two reasons," Moheb told Deutsche Welle. "One, we get all the academic knowledge of how to govern a society, and the second is: We are from that country, we understand the internal politics. So, I see my future in helping the Afghan public."
Hajar Mobarez wants to help Afghan women
Moheb has been studying in Erfurt for almost a year. Before that, he completed a degree in economics at the University of Kabul, studied in the US and also worked for an aid organization in Afghanistan.
One of only five women on the course is 23 year-old Hajar Mobarez. She already knows what women can achieve in Afghanistan. Her mother is a member of parliament in Kabul. Over the summer holidays, Hajar helped her with the election campaign. The women drove round remote villages, distributing campaign leaflets.
"I want to work for the government, especially in the area of economic development," Hajar said. "I also want to work for empowering women through providing more educational opportunities."
Can Western democracy work in Afghanistan?
A lecturer on the course, Kristina Roepstorff, has had endless debates with her students, about whether Western-style democracy can function in countries like Afghanistan.
"Some of them strongly rejected the idea of democracy at first," Roepstoff said. "Over time they've learnt that there are various types of democracy. They can see it's a system that makes sense, and that could settle ethnic conflicts."
Frangis Spanta is looking for the best applicants
The course is partly financed by the German foreign ministry, and the students also get a grant from the German Academic Exchange Sercive (DAAD). Frangis Spanta, the daughter of a former Afghan foreign minister coordinates the Masters program. She's received 120 applications for next year's course, although there are just 10 places. Applicants need to bring with them excellent marks, a strong knowledge of English, and political experience.
However not every Afghan politician is behind the idea of the Germans forging their elite.
"On a political level of course some of the ministries are skeptical," Spanta said. "They say: 'OK, they're being trained over there. But can they really use what they've learned in Germany?' The thing is though, Afghanistan needs these capabilities."
Hope of the nation
In some senses, the young Afghans are carrying the weight of their home country on their shoulders. Moheb Jarbakhail feels the pressure, but is ambitious and hopeful about the future:
"I would like to succeed," he said. "I would like to use this opportunity that is given to me to be a knowledgeable person and that pressure is from within and that is one of the motivations that has brought me here to Germany."
Hajar Mobarez with her German guest parents
The students learn all about German culture from their guest parents and at the same time, are motivated by the idea of creating a more positive image of their country.
"I wish that whenever everyone asks me: ‘Where do you come from?' I proudly say: ‘I am from Afghanistan,'" said Hajar Mobarez.
Author: Julia Hahn (ji)
Editor: Rob Turner