By Air Force Capt. Jillian Torango
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 25, 2008 - On a hillside overlooking the picturesque stepped farmlands of the Rokha district in Afghanistan's Panjshir province, a small group of people attended a ground-breaking ceremony Aug. 20 for the $130,000 Haish Saidqi eight-room schoolhouse. Hajji Kabiri, the province's deputy governor, and Zolmaid Shahid, the provincial director of education, were among those on hand. Of special importance was the attendance of Abdul Rahman Panjshiri; he and his wife donated the land for the school.
Panjshiri, as his name indicates, is originally from Panjshir. His wife's family had to leave the province when she was a girl so she could continue with school and get a good education.
Panjshiri said he and his family took asylum in the Netherlands during the Taliban regime, but he always knew he wanted to come back to Afghanistan.
"When the Taliban fell and I decided to come back to Afghanistan, some of my family was not happy with me," he said. "My three sons even did not come back with me, but my wife and daughter did, and we now live and work in Kabul."
Panjshiri is a communications engineer and serves as a director of International Radio and Television in Kabul. A year ago, he assisted in bringing the first television station to Panjshir.
His wife, a chemist, was the only woman from Rokha district to graduate from Kabul University in 1977. She now teaches at a school in Kabul.
"When we heard from the Ministry of Education in Kabul that they desperately needed land for a school, my wife encouraged me to give this land here for a girls' school," Panjshiri said. "She had to move away from Panjshir to get an education, and she didn't want the girls today to have to do the same thing."
Air Force Capt. Jayson Stewart represented the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and offered Panjshiri words of thanks.
"It is a good thing that his family was willing to give their personal land for a girls' school, because good, useable land is getting very hard to find here in Panjshir," Stewart said.
Panjshiri said it takes not only commitment from people like himself, but also financial help from international donors and assistance from NATO's International Security and Assistance Force for progress to continue in Panjshir and throughout Afghanistan.
"When I decided to come back to Afghanistan, a good friend of mine from Holland asked me why I would want to leave the Netherlands for Afghanistan," Panjshiri said.
For Panjshiri, the answer was duty.
"I told him that I was sure that as long as coalition forces were here helping our government, then I knew it would be a good, safe place to come," he said. "I am very happy that I made the decision to come back to Afghanistan, because I can do something for the people here – for my people."
The Haish Saidqi eight-room schoolhouse is scheduled to be complete in April.
(Air Force Capt. Jillian Torango serves with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team.)