Afghan cultivates partnership with journalism school

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:41 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Kazem Ahang has lived through civil war in Afghanistan, the bombing of his university and house arrest by the Taliban. Now, the 70-year-old dean of Kabul University’s journalism school is in Columbia to develop an agreement that would include an exchange between his faculty and journalism professors at MU.

Ahang is interested in the “human exchange” for his faculty and students in Kabul. All of his 18 faculty members want to study at MU’s School of Journalism, he said.

“I have professors with no higher education, only a bachelor’s degree,” Ahang said. All of them are former students of his at Kabul University, the oldest and largest university in Afghanistan. He wants them to earn master’s degrees and become fluent in another language.

“As soon as they learn a foreign language, they can do anything,” Ahang said.

Making meetings happen

Ahang’s visit to MU was initiated by Byron Scott, a professor at MU who has been involved with international journalism at the school for a number of years.

Scott wants to create an agreement through the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that would allow faculty from the two universities to conduct research and teach at each other’s school.

MU’s journalism school has a similar agreement with Moscow State University in Russia.

“That’s part of the tradition of the school,” Scott said of the partnership.

No agreement has been signed, and no funding is in place; funding for these programs usually comes from UNESCO, the U.S. State Department or private foundations, Scott said.

Scott met Ahang while working on an article.

“A little over two years ago I was doing an article for Global Journalist on the efforts to rebuild the media in Afghanistan,” Scott said. “In doing so, I made some contacts at UNESCO and was then able to make contact with Dean Ahang.”

In 2002, Scott made an effort to go to Afghanistan to meet Ahang in person but only got as far as Islamabad because of travel regulations into Afghanistan. Regulations are lighter now, Scott said, and Ahang was able to obtain a UNESCO-sponsored visa to travel to the United States.

In front of the class

Ahang spoke to Scott’s international issues reporting class Tuesday afternoon. He discussed the state of the media in Afghanistan, stressing his desire for greater freedom of the press there.

One of the students asked Ahang what the press was like in Afghanistan before it was free.

“During the Taliban, we did not have freedom of the press, we did not even have press, the Taliban owned the press,” Ahang said.

Kristen Orsborn, a student in the course, said it was good to get a real perspective from someone who actually lives in Afghanistan.

“It’s a reminder that we live in a free society,” Orsborn said.

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