September 29, 2002 - Rotary Club: Suzanne Griffin: Assessing Afghnistan's future

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: September 29, 2002 - Rotary Club: Suzanne Griffin: Assessing Afghnistan's future

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, May 26, 2003 - 3:56 pm: Edit Post

Suzanne Griffin: Assessing Afghnistan's future

Suzanne Griffin: Assessing Afghnistan's future

Assessing country's future

Peter Bassian photos

Suzanne Griffin will deliver a slide lecture presentation on her summer work in Afghanistan on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. in the lower level of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore.

The public is invited and church members will provide a dessert potluck starting at 7:30 p.m. for those attending. The church is located at 6211 NE 182nd St. just west of downtown Kenmore and two blocks north of Bothell Way

Ms. Griffin is dean of the general studies division of South Seattle Community College and was granted a paid sabbatical this summer to work with the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan to facilitate the development of a country-wide English language training plan. She served with the U.S. Peace Corps in that country in the late 1960s and she and her husband and two young daughters lived as Peace Corps volunteers in Iran during the first eight months of its Revolution.

Her presentation, entitled “Unveiling Afghanistan,” will offer an up-close view of the rebuilding process there with an emphasis on the educational sector. This past summer she traveled to many cities and rural areas of the country to observe classes, interview teachers and students and to meet with Afghan ministries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Her appearance in Kenmore is sponsored by the Outreach and Stewardship committees of the Church of the Redeemer which has offered to assist Ms. Griffin in publicizing the need for modern textbooks so desperately needed for the education of high school and community college level students in such areas as English, engineering, health, computer science and applications, architecture and agriculture .

A list of the type of textbooks needed is found on the church website at and persons with textbooks published within the past 10 years may drop them off either at the church in Kenmore or the Butterfly Thrift Store at 10216 NE 183rd St. in Bothell. More information on the lecture and the quest for books is available at (425) 486-3743.

Persons wishing to make financial contributions in this effort may send a check to Int’l Rescue Committee, 122 E 42nd St., New York, NY 10168 – attention Afghan books.

The following was written for publication in the Oct. 3 issue of the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter. The writer is John B. Hughes with the column published under the heading of Northshore Citizen.

Interested in putting a face on America’s effort to help restore dignity and hope for the people of war-torn Afghanistan?

You’ll have that chance by meeting Dr. Suzanne Griffin in Kenmore this month as she tells a story of her summer visit to that country to assess the educational needs of the multitude of Afghani children and returning adult refugees. The country is slowly recovering from more than 20 years of war and strife under Russian invasion and the influence of the Taliban.

Suzanne is a passionate and courageous advocate for the people of Afghanistan and is planning to go back after Thanksgiving, hoping to have rounded up 10,000 reasonably modern textbooks in a variety of fields. The books are destined for Afghanistan to provide new educational opportunities for that nation’s high school and college age young people. Her story, “Unveiling Afghanistan”, will be told during a 7:30 p.m. dessert potluck for the public to be held Tuesday, October 15, in the lower level of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore (See related story).

Her day job is dean of instruction at South Seattle Community College, where her specialty is English as a Second Language.

Suzanne Griffin spent her summer traveling the unpredictable, war-ravaged countryside on a mission with the International Rescue Committee to traverse village upon village and assess the condition of the country’s nearly non-existent education system as the thousands of returning refugees were barely surviving under deplorable conditions.

Her passion is encouraging potential in the people she met in Afghanistan, those who can convince the many non-governmental organizations and new Afghanistan ministries to work together and restore a long-neglected education system.

Suzanne is much more interested in telling about useless, outdated or non-existent textbooks than about her own personal story of years spent with the U.S. Peace Corps in Iran and Afghanistan. She has found room for 10,000 textbooks in a shipping container leaving Seattle in December. The most critical need is for textbooks published since 1992 in all areas of science and technology, particularly in medicine and health occupations, engineering and architecture, computer applications and computer science, and agriculture.

Key to bringing English to the Afghani people would be textbooks in English as a Second Language for young adults and adult learners, English literature and English composition. Most textbooks in Afghanistan today were published prior to 1980 when Russia and later the Taliban influenced what children learned about their world.

She notes with emphasis, “some care needs to be taken to make sure that the books are compatible with dress restrictions and sensitivities of the Muslim religion and Afghan culture.”

Efforts are just getting under way in our communities to help locate suitable textbooks for Suzanne’s project.

During her summer’s assignment, Suzanne heard over and over from concerned Afghani a recurring theme of “If you want to help us maintain peace in Afghanistan, you need to help us rebuild and improve our education system.”

By traveling in convoys with IRC staff Afghani counterparts Shir Wali and Razia, doors opened for her that made information exchanges with school leaders immediate and productive.

She was moved to tears when telling me of finding unventilated, mud-walled rooms perched above a noisy street-level bazaar, jam packed with Afghani of all ages studying English in sweltering temperatures. There is a thirst for knowledge among the younger population. Students will spend a hard-earned $10 a month to take English classes. The teachers work five days a week, some putting in long shifts between the hours of 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Afghani understand that English as their second language is essential to getting a job, providing hope for any opportunity for a better future.
Having lived and taught in Iran and Afghanistan, Suzanne knows the cultural rules. She is encouraged that the male-dominated Afghani hierarchy is again extending educational opportunities to women. Women and girls still must go to classes separately from boys and men, but they are dedicated students and, to Suzanne’s mind, are the key to regaining a successful educational system. She watched as one class of girls was confined to circular, rubber United Nations tents under a beating sun while taking their exams.

Suzanne found tanks throughout Kabul a bit disconcerting. There were armed troops from many nations, but there were also civilian volunteers evident from as many countries helping many displaced Afghanis returning from Pakistan and Iran.

Those in exile in Western countries were finding their way back to head up the various ministries in the country. Many she knew from her earlier life there. These educated returnees had become very successful abroad during the more than 23 years since her last visit and now they were returning to their homeland to seek a better life for the next generation of their countrymen.

When she asked students and teachers what the IRC and others could do in her field of education, the reply was unanimous and for the basics – good books in English, computers, ceiling fans and teacher training.

Village schools – “the pride of the Afghani” – took years to build prior to the Russian invasion and the Taliban takeover. They were reduced to rubble as the warring factions used the school quads for military bivouacs throughout those turbulent years of war and civilian repression. The schools that still stand and have some hope of rebuilding are riddled from the constant pounding of bullets and mortar shells.

What’s next? Her list is long but centers around follow-up work by volunteers to see that Afghan curriculum starts English in the fourth grade (not the seventh) when learning capacity is greatest; that teaching methods of the 1940s to 1960s (“repeat after me”) are abandoned in favor of job-related visual materials; that English is taught in a “training” environment for fuure teachers, farmers, doctors and technicians alike; and that the country’s mass media is re-established from within.

A big order? Come listen to Suzanne and see her media presentation and you’ll think it’s possible…and necessary for the Afghani people and for peace in that region.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Rotary Club

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Aghanistan



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.