Since 9/11, one of the greatest challenges facing the United States and the West has been trying to bridge the polarization between the Muslim and non-Muslim world. HTAC's educational exchange program between Western and Afghan 'sister' schools has become a valuable educational tool in bridging that gap.
Our program has brought together hundreds of Afghan and Western students together in creating, sharing, and discussing meaningful and often life-changing projects that facilitate learning and changed attitudes about one another. Many of these exchanges help students gain practical knowledge. They learn lessons in geography about which of the 34 Afghan provinces or which of the 50 U.S. states is their sister school located. Some exchanges allow kids from either country gain historical perspectives about their respective communities, towns and cities.
Students also learn to respect different customs and values. Students in the U.S. and West have learned to appreciate the importance Afghan children place on family and to respect their parents and other elders. Afghan students are often surprised to discover that many Western students enjoy exercise to become fit and healthy and some have taken up jogging or playing sports.
Students discover insights about common themes. They learn that the concept of democracy is a shared value in both cultures, but there are some unique distinctions that allow for discussion and greater openness. They also learn that their counterparts desire a more peaceful world. This revelation alone does much to help bridge the post 9/11 polarization between Muslims and non-Muslims. Students also learn they often share common dreams- of becoming a doctor, an engineer, or a teacher.
As a result of this program, bonds between students, teachers, and schools are created; perceptions are positively changed; and the seeds for future collaboration and cooperation are planted in this next generation of children from both sides of the world.