A business trip to Mazar-i-Sharif

A group of faculty and staff members of the University of Opole have recently visited Taj University in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan.
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 Dr. Michał Wanke, coordinator of the Office for International Study Programmes, dr. Marek Korzeniowski, the deputy dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Muhammad Murtaza Kohistani of the International Relations Office, Marcin Deutschmann of the Student Careers Center and Krystyna Waindzoch of the Department of Biosystematics have spent a week in mid July working with our partners on several issues. The cooperation between the universities is enabled by the Erasmus+ ICM grant and covers the mobility of staff members as well as students. The University of Opole hosted Taj University students last year during a semester of exchange period.

This year’s visit to Afghanistan was to plan further exchanges, especially the selection procedure and the visa procedure. Developing a new master’s programme at Taj University under auspices of the University of Opole was the most discussed topic. Covering curriculum development, teachers training and curating training materials were the focal points.The biology doctoral candidate’s presence was meant to develop relationships with the researchers of the local public university in the field of Middle Asian biosystematic studies. She attempted to collect some samples of indigenous plants in the various parts of the city, as Afghanistan remains an undiscovered land for scientists due to decades of unrest and instability.

The visit included meetings at the Balkh University to discuss their experiences in the fields – both of natural sciences as well as joint curriculum development – BU runs one such programme together with an american university. Despite the dry and very hot weather characteristic for summers in the steppe climate and the temperatures rising as high as 45 degrees Celsius, the visit was both intensive and productive.

The team participated in the Afghan-Polish culture night, including poetry and singing. Our representatives stayed at the house of the founders of the university and enjoyed Afghan hospitality, cuisine and even traditional clothes.

The Taj University is founded by Simin Shams, the first and only female leading a university in Afghanistan. The university invests in implementing gender equality measures, attracting more and more female students.

Afghanistan is sadly a country in turmoil of war and terrorism, but Mazar-i-Sharif remains a relatively safe place. Nevertheless, during the whole stay, the team used anti-blast shelled cars and were accompanied by bodyguards. The activity in the city continues normally despite the security threats in the surrounding provinces. The University of Opole hopes to assist in educating the young generation of Afghanistan both by means of exchange programmes and with Taj University as a local proxy.

This was the second trip to Afghanistan made by the representatives of the University of Opole. The deputy rector, professor Janusz Słodczyk together with dr. Stankomir Nicieja and dr. Michał Wanke visited Kabul and several universities based in the capital in the spring of 2017 and since then 13 students participated in exchange programmes at UO and two more enrolled to regular studies with more being recruited this summer.