Education and Outreach

Education and outreach programs sponsored by the United States from the 1950s to the late 1970s had a dramatic impact on the social and economic fabric of Afghanistan. Numerous American universities, organizations, and private individuals heeded the Afghan government’s call for teachers, doctors, and vocational instructors. These efforts were reinforced by granting agencies such as the Fulbright Program and philanthropic groups like the Asia Foundation.

There were many successes in U.S.-Afghan plans to enhance education and training. Among them was the 1952 opening of the Afghan Institute of Technology, which taught various technical subjects to secondary school students. That same year, the University of Wyoming signed a contract to send instructors to the Vocational Agriculture School in Kabul. These initiatives strengthened similar efforts at Kabul University, such as the formation of the Faculty of Agriculture and Engineering. Columbia University Teachers College began training local educators in 1956, and within a decade Afghans had a role in publishing textbooks in Dari and Pashto.

Activities of this kind fulfilled the wishes of the Afghan Minister of Education who, in support of America’s involvement in educational advancement, had stated in 1946, “We need the knowledge [about science, engineering, and other technical subjects] to improve the living standards of our people. The best way we can obtain it is from the nation which developed it.” American institutions in Afghanistan collaborated successfully for years and even organized a formal consortium of universities in 1963. As a result of the overall U.S. involvement, enrollment in primary and secondary schools more than doubled in the years between 1952 and 1962.

U.S.-Afghan educational efforts were more than just formal degree programs. By the late 1950s, Afghans became interested in developing radio and television programming after learning about these at the United States Information Service (USIS) Library and Cultural Center in Kabul. Their desire to study such media fields in the United States was made possible by the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), the Fulbright Program, and additional American aid organizations. As another example, Ariana Afghan Airlines formed a partnership with Pan American World Airways to train pilots, flight attendants, ground crews, and airport staff for a growing network of international air routes.

Perhaps the most successful U.S. outreach initiative in Afghanistan was the Peace Corps. From 1962 to 1979, it sent over 1,500 American volunteers to every region of the country as teachers, vaccinators, agricultural development experts, and occupational trainers. Peace Corps personnel lived and worked with Afghans in remote villages and large cities. Former participants still feel great affection for those who welcomed them into their homes, and continue to advocate on behalf of the Afghan people. Such long-lasting relationships between Americans and Afghans were ultimately the greatest result of a shared commitment to further education and strengthen communities.

Afghan students at Washington National Airport en route to the University of Wyoming.
Ambassador Angus Ward speaks with Afghan education leaders at the USIS Library.
An Afghan peruses magazines at the USIS Library.
Janbaz Kapissaye, Press Officer for the Royal Afghan Press Department, in the control room at the KGO television station.
Students in a village school view a film-strip presentation on a sunlight-powered slide projector.
Columbia University Teachers College initiatives in Afghanistan.
An English typing class at the Women’s Welfare Society sponsored by the Asia Foundation.
Pan American and Ariana form a partnership.
Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps, tours Afghanistan.
Peace Corps Volunteers host a “Hootenanny” for Afghan orphans.
Qu Qu Qu Barg-e Chinaar: The Afghan Songbook.
Peace Corps Volunteer Margery Bickler vaccinates Afghan villagers.
Frank Procella (right), a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Helmand Valley, inspects animal forage with an Afghan colleague.
Peace Corps medical partnerships.