Working Vsit to Mazar-i-Sharif

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A group of staff members of the University of Opole has recently visited Taj University in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. Dr  Michał Wanke, coordinator of the Office for International Study Programmes, Dr Marek Korzeniowski, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Muhammad Murtaza Kohistani from the International Relations Office, Marcin Deutschmann from the Careers Senrvice, and Krystyna Waindzoch from the Chair of Biosystematics spent a week in July working with our partners on the cooperation between the universities under the Erasmus+ ICM grant. The grant  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.

The purpose of this year’s visit to Afghanistan was to plan further exchanges, and to set selection and visa procedures. The development of a new master’s programme at Taj University under auspices of the University of Opole was also a topic of the utmost importance. Covering curriculum development, teacher training and curating training materials were the focal points.The presence of KRystyna Wandzoch, a biology doctoral candidate, was meant to develop cooperation with the researchers of the local public university in the field of Central Asian biosystematic studies. She also attempted to collect some samples of indigenous plants in 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 field of  natural sciences and joint curriculum development - the BU runs such a 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, which included 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 was 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 was 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 Taj University acting as a local proxy.

It was the second trip to Afghanistan made by the representatives of the University of Opole. The Vice-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 have participated in exchange programmes at the UO and two more enrolled for regular studies, with more being admitted this summer.