Skyping with Afghanistan

Afghanistan high school students talk with Beaver students. (Courtesy GCEP)

Global History and Social Studies Department Chair Kader Adjout has been using technology in his Middle East senior elective to connect his class with students from Afghanistan. He uses a private social network (a Ning) to work with teachers and students in Afghanistan, and his students post to a blog which receives responses from the Afghan students.

But the most meaningful connection between the two groups was an online video conference via Skype. At 8:00 a.m. on November 5, Beaver students — who were just beginning their school day — talked with a group of high school boys who are part of the Global Collaboration and Exchange Programs in Afghanistan. They were finishing their day at 5:30 p.m.The Afghan students were interested in learning about the difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas, what school is like for Beaver students, and whether or not students have after-school jobs. Beaver students asked about the interaction between boys and girls in Afghanistan, what kind of activities they like to engage in outside of school, and how their Islamic religion affects their everyday life.

Below is a short video of the students’ interaction as Beaver students asked what Afghan culture is like (runs 1:34).

More Skype conversations between the two schools are planned in the future.

UPDATE: Here is a followup conversation that happened after we posted this article.

We received this report on the video conference from Abdul Qaum Almas, Afghanistan Country Program Director of Global Connection & Exchange Program (GCEP):

On November 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm local time of Jalalabad Afghanistan. The first ever online Skype conference of GCEP Afghanistan students held with 14 students of Beaver Country Day School located in Chestnut Hill, USA. Mr. Kader Ajout who is history teacher at Beaver Country Day School and Almas were facilitators for this online conference.

Mr.Kader Ajout was introduced to GCE Afghanistan team by Anna Mussman, the Program Officer of GCE at State Department. GCE Afghanistan team started initial discussions with Beaver Country Day School team via email and finally scheduled a video Skype online conference between Beaver Country Day School and GCE Jalalabad High School Students and Teachers to have on-line exchanges on various topics of their wish.

The meeting was well organized from both sides. The agenda was circulated among GCE team prior to the meeting and participants were given enough time to prepare for the meeting. The agenda of this first conference focused on students’ introduction and opening discussion on various topics such is education, health, politic and social matters. The meeting started by receiving a Skype call from US which brought a big smile and happiness on GCE students’ faces. The meeting started with meeting participants introductions and successfully covered all topics.

For the first time GCE Afghanistan students watched online webcam video of their US peers and talked to them about various topics. The conference started with introduction of each participant from both sides, then the students exchanged questions and answers about education, health, politics and social matters. There was an interesting topic about cultural and education system which are different in each country.

Afghan students had questions from their US Peers about US special days such as Christmas, Thanks Giving Days, Students hobbies in US, Schools Uniforms and education system. US students had questions from their Afghan peers about current political condition in Afghanistan, Swine Flue Outbreak, Marriage traditions, Living styles of Afghans, Daily students activities and their hobbies. The questions were fully answered by both sides students in very friendly atmosphere. Both sides’ students wished to continue this discussion further and schedule next conference soon. Both facilitators will work together to schedule online conference in near future.

The conference had great impacts on the Afghan students; I noticed all students were pleased during and after the conference. The one Skype call turned out the silence and sad faces of Afghan students into pleasant faces. The students started smiling and laughing with their US students, they were talking with courage with their friends, more importantly both sides’ students found answers of their questions which were in their minds for years. This type of online discussions will clear all misunderstanding between Afghan and American communities; we will have open minded community in which people will solve their political and social problems via joint discussions not through fighting and killing of each other as it is now. Thanks to GCE Project and team for making all this possible for both Afghan and US students.

Kader Adjout wrote on November 14, 2009 at 11:16 a.m.:

On November 12 upper school students from my Middle East elective engaged in a follow-up discussion with Afghani students in Jalalabad City, Afghanistan, about the political situation in Afghanistan as well as the Afghani image of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Are U.S. troops helping? Should the U.S. send more troops to Afghanistan? Have Afghans seen an improvement in their daily life seen NATO forces entered the country? What is the Afghan students’ opinion on the Taliban? On Pakistan?
All these questions and others allowed both groups to participate in a discussion, at times heated, that lasted close to one hour and forty-five minutes.
The Beaver students were challenged by Afghan students to respond to their questions from an Afghan perspective. Some were surprised when some of the Afghan students said they remembered the Taliban era as a stable period for their country and that NATO troops should leave Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan. And Afghani students were surprised to hear the different opinions that our students had about the current situation in Afghanistan. They applauded the comments of one senior who was against U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
At the end of the discussion, both groups applauded each other, and were very glad to have participated in such important conversation. All students agreed on one objective: peace and stability for Afghanistan; however, they found it challenging to agree on the means to reach that objective. But isn’t that what politics is all about?

Qais ahmad wrote on Nov. 18, 2009 at 7:21 a.m.: 

hello dear readers!
i am Qais ahmad one of participant of GCE and member of this skype connection, it was a great chance for us to share our ideas and thoughts with US students.
we hope to have more events like that.
best regards
Qais ahmad student of Abdul wakil high school.