Over three decades of war have not only killed tens of thousands of Afghan children, but have decimated the land. Centuries-old well-conceived water and irrigation systms have been destroyed; drinking water has been contaminated and Afghans in urban areas are exposed to many of the worst toxic and carcinogenic air pollutants known.
HTAC believes that part of our educational investment in Afghanistan must address the issue of teaching children that awareness of and concern for the environment is crucial in the establishment of a civil society. Our environmental education program is designed to give Afghan youth hands-on experience in applying eco-learned concepts at their schools and in their homes.
3 years ago, the physical conditions at eight middle schools and high schools in the Paghman District (about 30 miles West of Kabul), were horrendous. School grounds were covered with litter and in some cases, contained hazardous waste. School gardens, normally a source of pride, had dying plants and poor irrigation. Our team discovered that the overwhelming majority of students lacked even the most basic understanding of health and environmental concepts, did not comprehend many of the eco problems in their own communities and had little or no knowledge of basic health issues. It was no wonder that many of them and their family members were constantly getting sick.
Today, the conditions at these schools have changed dramatically, thanks to the successful implementation of our environmental education initiative and the fact that students have taken ownership of the program. Few, if any traces of litter can be found at any of the school sites, and most-importantly, hazardous waste has been removed. Students have transformed their school gardens and young tree saplings have been planted. During field trips into their neighborhoods, boys and girls can spot toxic waste and have called attention of these problems to local officials. Furthermore, students are teaching parents and siblings good hygiene practices and preventing untold numbers of illnesses among family members.
In small, but profound ways, HTAC's environmental education program is giving Afghan youth the knowledge and tools to take personal responsibility for their personal health, improving environmental conditions in their local communities, and as they become adults, help influence environmental legislation in Afghanistan that will help protect and restore the country's forests, wildlife, air and waterways..