Event Reports

German-Afghan Research Forum (GARF 1)

NCPR's First Winter School

The German Afghan Research Forum or “GARF” was conceived in August 2006 as a major initiative to introduce research methodology to the three Faculties of Kabul University represented at the National Centre for Policy Research: Law & Political Science, Economics, and Social Science.

National Center for Policy Research

GARF I” REPORT

(German-Afghan Research Forum) Training Program

The German Afghan Research Forum or “GARF” was conceived in August 2006 as a major initiative to introduce research methodology to the three Faculties of Kabul University represented at the National Centre for Policy Research: Law & Political Science, Economics, and Social Science.

The Forum was envisaged as having 4 main objectives:

a) to strengthen the links between the Centre and the corresponding Faculties at Kabul University (KU);

b) to promote the culture of research at these faculties;

c) to train both faculty and top students in research methodology on an intensive and ongoing basis;

d) to create a pool of researchers from which the Centre would draw for carrying out its own research projects, and offer researchers to other institutions in Kabul.

In order to achieve these objectives a two-month course in research methodology was planned and devised for 60 members of the three corresponding Faculties at Kabul University. These included 10 lecturers and 10 students from each Faculty, so that in all, 30 lecturers and 30 students were trained. Trainees were offered ‘scholarships’ to attend, and were paid only upon completion of the entire course and final project. Non-attendance at daily sessions was penalized each time.

In order to facilitate the selection process for the 60 candidates, each Faculty was asked to select a Project Coordinator. The Coordinators were given the following duties:

1) to arrange for the selection of 10 lecturers from their respective Faculties

2) to nominate 15 top students to be interviewed for the selection of the final 10

3) to ensure adherence to the conditions attached to attendance of GARF

4) to ensure completion of practical projects at the end of GARF

Seven trainers were employed to teach the different sections of the course. These included six members from different Faculties of Kabul University with post-graduate degrees obtained from universities outside Afghanistan. They were also joined by Dr Karl Fischer of the Hans Seidel Foundation, who taught as guest trainer.

Upon satisfactory completion of the two-month course and submission of a final practical project, trainees were awarded Certificates of Attendance in appreciation.

GARF I began in October 2006 and ended December 2006. The NCPR plans to repeat the same course in 2007.

The Opening

“GARF” was launched officially in an opening ceremony held at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Higher Education on 29/10/2006. Guests of honor included His Excellency the German Ambassador Dr. Seidt, His Excellency the Minister of Higher Education, the Chief Advisor to the Minister of Higher Education, and the Chancellor of Kabul University. In addition, the opening was attended by some 90 guests, including the 60 selected GARF trainees, Deans of the Faculties of Law & Political Science, Economics, and Social Science, GARF Coordinators, GARF trainers, scholars from the Science Academy of Kabul, and colleagues from German organizations active in Kabul.

The ceremony, which lasted 3 hours, began with a welcome note by the Chancellor of Kabul University, who expressed his appreciation for the NCPR’s hard work in bringing about GARF. He acknowledged the vital need for scientific research both within the university and elsewhere in Afghanistan, and expressed the wish that one day research methodology can be included in the teaching curriculum of all university Faculties.

This wish was echoed by the Deans of the three Faculties currently incorporated in the Center’s GARF training, as well as representatives of selected GARF trainees. In addition, all three Deans expressed their appreciation and reiterated their willingness to cooperate with the Centre in whatever capacity they are called upon to do so. It is the NCPR’s plan to co-opt the help of the corresponding Faculty staff and top students in its research projects.

Other speakers reiterated the appreciation expressed for the lead the NCPR is taking in teaching research. The ceremony was ended by a tea reception, in which cakes and hot drinks were served.

Trainees

Two categories of trainees were selected to take part in GARF. One category consisted of 10 lecturers from each Faculty considered to be suitable by the appointed Coordinators and Faculty Deans. Suitability was based on youthfulness or research experience. A number of younger lecturers were chosen because it was felt they were more open to learning the new methodology required for current scientific research, whereas older lecturers were felt to be set in their old ways of doing research and probably not open to being taught new techniques. At the same time, some of the older lecturers, who have gained experience of modern research and who expressed a particular desire to be brought up to date, were included. In all 30 lecturers were selected from the three Faculties.

The other category of trainees consisted of 10 students from each Faculty. Initially top students from each year were nominated, totaling 15 from each Faculty, totaling 45 in all. All 45 were then interviewed by a panel of interviewers composed of NCPR Department Heads and two trainers. As a result of performance in the interviews, 10 students were selected from each Faculty, totaling 30 students in all.

As it was considered insensitive to train lecturers in the same classes as their students, and because the NCPR training room can only accommodate 35 people, trainees were divided into 2 teaching groups of 30. Each group was taught on alternate days, beginning with the lecturers on Saturdays (and Mondays), and the students on Sundays (and Tuesdays). As Thursdays are officially a holiday at Kabul University, the NCPR opening days were changed to Saturday to Wednesday from Sunday to Thursday, in order to accommodate trainees. Practice sessions were held on Wednesdays. Classes lasted 3 hours and took place in the afternoons. A 15-minute break was taken for refreshments half way through every session.

All trainees were asked to sign attendance sheets at the start of every session. Trainees were penalized for every session they missed at the end of GARF, when money was deducted from their scholarship. Fortunately, attendance rates were very high.

It is hoped to recruit the best of the trainees, both lecturers and students, to work on the Center’s research projects for 2007. Similarly, it is hoped that the best ‘graduates’ of future GARF courses can also be recruited for the following year’s research projects. It is possible that some trainees will remain interested in research and in cooperating with the Centre after leaving university, but it is best to ensure a ready supply of researchers trained by the Centre is available each year. As the Centre grows and takes on additional research, it can employ any trainees that wish to continue to work as researchers even after leaving KU. And, of course, the Centre would like to be able to offer well trained researchers to others conducting research in Kabul.

Trainers

Several options were considered when seeking trainers. The main qualifications required were that trainers should be qualified and experienced researchers, who had studied research methodology and felt capable of teaching it. This gave us the options of recruiting international trainers or Afghan trainers. While it was felt that international trainers may be more professional and experienced in research and training, concern was felt that they may not be the best option for a long-running and intense course such as GARF. This was for two reasons: no international may be able to commit for the 2-3 months required, and problems with translation could create a great handicap in communicating material efficiently to trainees. In addition, it was felt that Afghan staff would have a better understanding of the standards to be expected from trainees who consisted of university staff and students.

The Afghan trainers who were employed were themselves lecturers at KU, who had obtained post-graduate degrees from other countries, where they had both studied research methodology and carried out supervised research as part of their degrees. In addition, as the main trained researchers from their respective Faculties, they had been involved in many major research projects since 2002.

Once chosen, they were asked to submit their proposed lecture notes and list of issues they planned to teach in each teaching session to the Centre’s Department Heads for review. We at the Centre had prepared a very thorough list of issues we wished to have covered in every session. These were coordinated between the Centre and trainers to ensure that all relevant topics were taught. In addition, trainers were asked to provide lecture notes to trainees for each session, so that they can be used for reference both during the course and afterwards. These were printed as a booklet, which was handed out to each trainee to keep.

Course Structure and Content

The course covered 7 teaching weeks, which included 28 teaching sessions and an additional 7 practice sessions at the end of each teaching week. As trainees included both university lecturers and students it was decided to teach each group separately. This was partly to avoid tensions and embarrassment occurring between the two groups, and partly for practical reasons to do with space. The NCPR conference room can only comfortably accommodate up to 35 people. With 60 trainees, it was felt the ideal solution was to have two separate teaching groups of 30.

This meant that every session needed to be taught twice – the same topic was taught to lecturers one day, and to students the following day. Although initially this was considered as a possible duplication of resources and time, in practice it turned out to be a major advantage. The holding of smaller teaching groups created plenty of opportunities for interaction between trainees and trainers. This was frequently commented on and was considered to be one of the many positive aspects of GARF. So that in future the Centre would wish to continue holding teaching sessions no bigger than GARF I whenever possible.

The course began by addressing some fundamental questions such as the importance of scientific research, in particular in the humanities; ethics of research; the role of research in policy making; and the role of institutions and centers such as the NCPR in this process. This was considered necessary as this tripartite relationship is relatively new in Afghanistan, and it was felt that such an introduction would provide information on the NCPR on the one hand, and set the correct context for the course on the other hand.

The course then dealt with the different stages of conducting research in a systematic manner, beginning with the different ways in which research ideas come into being and hypotheses are tested, followed by the different means of collating information – in the field and the library - , qualitative and quantitative analysis of data, through to the presentation of findings in different formats (see attached Topics List).

Final Project

Trainees were divided into groups of 3 and 4 at the end of GARF, and asked to conduct a short research. They were asked to submit two topics to the Centre from which one was selected by the Department Heads and GARF Coordinators as the topic for research. Trainers (both the lecturers and students) were given a period of 30 days to complete their researches and submit to the Center. During this time the Centre Heads of Departments were available for further assistance and guidance.

It is hoped that if any of the projects are of a sufficient standard to publish the best three. If carried out to a high quality they can provide useful information on their chosen topic, and publicize concrete results of the work the NCPR is involved in.

18 projects in all were undertaken in the three disciplines represented at the NCPR – six in each.

The followings are the tittles of the researches done by the trainees of GARF, in the fields of Economics, Law & Political Science, and Social Sciences respectively.

1. A study case of economic factors influencing moral conduct at government offices: case studies of Kabul University and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

2. An assessment of the impact of education and training levels on income distribution: a case study from the 9th district of Kabul city, 3rd Makrorayan, 132nd Block.

3. A study of the economic effects of rug production in Kabul city’s district 13.

4. Assessment of poverty among homeless immigrants in Kabul: a case study from the Chaman-e-Babrak area.

5. The importance of micro credit to women and its impact on the economic activities of households.

6. A study of the views of farmers, landowners, and local officials in Bagrami on agricultural recovery in their area.

7. Statistics of divorce in Kabul city in 1384

8. Ela and Zahar in Kabul city

9. Participation of women from the 5th district of Kabul city in the parliamentary election

10. Study of crimes committed during the past year by children in the juvenile centre.

11. Assessment of economic and management causes effects on administrative corruption, since 5 years, in social studies professors point of view

12. Problems of employment for social science graduates in 1384

13. Causes of the underdevelopment of education during 1385 in Ghazi high school

14. Problems of ownership in the social sciences housing blocks during the past 14 years

15. Study of factors influencing poverty in the Hazar Baghal district of Kabul city

16. Political participation of women from the viewpoint of KU lecturers

17. Causes of re-emigration of returnees to foreign countries from the 13th district of Kabul in last 3 years.

18. Why do the Hazaras of west Kabul prefer to live in separate enclaves – a case study in Pakhtagan