KABUL -- Afghanistan's private universities are struggling to stay afloat as administrators and professors lose their jobs and students are forced to abandon their education.
Since the fall of the Afghan government in mid-August, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.
Private universities and their students have not been immune to the insecurity.
Sharifa, 25, a Kabul resident, was a medical student at Afghan Swiss Medical Institute of Higher Education until five months ago.
"My biggest aspiration was to become a doctor and serve my fellow women in remote areas of Afghanistan so that I could prevent the unnecessary demise of mothers and children," she said.
"However, my hope has turned into hopelessness because with the change in the government, the only breadwinner of my household lost his job and I could not afford to pay the university tuition."
"Therefore, I was forced to drop out," Sharifa said.
Sharifa said she started studying at the institute alongside 59 other female classmates.
Since the fall of the previous government, she and 44 others have dropped out after family members lost their jobs.
"We could not pay the tuition and other expenses of the university," Sharifa said.
Ahmad Milad, a 29-year-old resident of Kabul who formerly worked with an international organisation, said that he previously was able to support his family and pay for his education.
"However, like thousands of other youths, I lost my job ... I could not pay for my education," said Milad, who had completed three semesters of his master's programme.
"If the sudden change had not happened in our country, I would not have lost my job. I would, instead, have become a master's degree holder and a young professional serving my beloved country."
"However ... many other youths and I have lost our jobs and cannot afford to continue our education due to poverty and economic hardships," Milad said.
Officials across many of Afghanistan's roughly 120 private universities have reported a significant drop in students after the fall of the previous government, with many institutions nearing collapse.
"In the past, the majority of the students ... studying at the private universities, were either employed themselves, or a member of their family was working," said Javid Sangdel, the president of Dunya University of Afghanistan.
"But now, most of them have lost their jobs after recent developments," he said.
"Despite the fact that universities reduced their tuition fees between 40 and 60%, students are still unable to pay because of severe economic problems and have been forced to discontinue their education," he added.
"Millions of dollars have been invested in the private education sector in the past 20 years. Equally a great number of families had one or two members working in the sector."
"If economic challenges continue to worsen and people are not able to afford studying in private universities, the sector will collapse and many more people will become unemployed and the society will sink further into poverty," Sangdel said.
"Education has been the greatest achievement of Afghanistan over the past two decades," Fahim Chakari, the executive director of Karwan University, told Salaam Times.
"Millions of Afghans have been able to attend schools and universities. Literacy has significantly increased. Hundreds of youths were able to obtain their bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.s, and our country had an unprecedented number of educated and professional workers."
"However, Afghan youth are currently forced to drop out and flee the country because of economic challenges and unemployment," Chakari said, adding that the country's education sector has collapsed as a result.
"Currently there are no proper job opportunities for educated youth," Saber Ghiasi, a lecturer at a private university in Kabul, told Salaam Times.
"Youths have no employment security at all. Poverty and unemployment have forced many educated youth including master's degree holders, Ph.D.s, university lecturers and journalists to seek menial labour [become street vendors]."
"There were as many as 30 students attending my class until recent months, but that number has now shrunk to only 10," Ghaisy said.
"The unclear political and economic future of the country has negatively impacted the motivation of the youth," he said.
As an employee of a private university, I confirm this report. Indeed, private universities face revenue shortfalls and even failure due to the collapse of the presidential system. With the fall of the republic, jobs have come to a standstill, people's problems are increasing day by day. There are no jobs, no works, no income, the standard of living is deteriorating day by day; that is all I have to say. Less than two months later, in March 2022, many young Afghans will leave their homes in an attempt to leave the country for other countries and will have to work hard in other countries. In the presidential era, even a handcart runner's hopes of going to university would be fulfilled, as he would work during the day earning around four to five hundred afghanis, making at least twelve to fifteen thousand afghanis a month. He was paying two or three thousand afghanis per month for university fees, and now as there is no work, what will he do to get admission to a private university, and what will he achieve to fulfill his wishes?Reply
Private universities of Afghanistan are an asset of Afghanistan that has its importance and public universities. The international community may please help these universities to avoid their collapse. In addition, international agencies may better support public universities and prevent them from collapsing. We are now embroiled in a controversy that, on the one hand, the Taliban do not know, and they are pursuing Pakistan's policy of destroying Afghanistan. On the other hand, the international community has started hostility towards Afghanistan.Reply
Unfortunately, this is all true. Unemployment and poverty have jeopardized all of our achievements over the last 20 years, leaving our suffered people face life-threatening problems. If there was a government, we would now say that the government should take care of our people, but since we cannot do this, we can only wait for a miracle and help from Allah and go through these bitter times like swallowing a bitter morsel. I feel very sorry for my people when I see them selling their children due of poverty and unemployment, or looking for work in this cold winter, to find a loaf of halal bread for their families and to save their families from starvation. No wonder that the people are so evasive from this country and by one way or another, they are taking themselves and their families out of the country from these disasters. Even when they go out of the country, devils like Pakistan and Iran create a thousand kinds of problems for our people and take advantage of their situation. Curses on all those who are responsible for the misery of our people, and curses on all the individuals and countries that take advantage of our situation and are happy with our situation.Reply
In order to solve these problems, the Islamic Emirate must provide the educated and professional young people with work and activity opportunities, regardless of their ethnicity, religious sect or hometown, they should not interfere in the personal affairs of the youth, and do not humiliate the youth because of lack of turbans, beard and hair style. As a result, young people will find a sense of freedom, education, and a sense of responsibility and they will not be forced to leave the country.Reply