In what is seen as a highly political decision, a renowned doctoral student has been replaced as chancellor of the first Afghan university in Kabul with a candidate backed by the Taliban, sparking outrage from the country’s academic community.
Dozens of university professors oppose the appointment, saying they will resign.
In an announcement that shocked the academic community, the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education declared Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat on September 21 as the new chancellor, ousting Mohammad Osman Babury, who had obtained his doctorate in pharmacognosy from Philips University in Marburg. in Germany, besides having rich academic experience in Russia and India, publishing numerous scientific articles on herbal medicine and pharmacognosy.
After Ghairat’s appointment, old media articles resurfaced, allegedly showing Ghairat openly calling for the murder of journalists.
Dr Babury had held teaching positions at Kabul University since 1986, as well as the post of Deputy Minister of Higher Education from 2007 to 2017, before becoming director of the university in May of the last year.
The ministry said the former chancellor was returning to Germany for six months, but there was no news from Babury himself.
Founded in the 1930s, Kabul University in the Afghan capital is the country’s most prestigious and largest academic institution with over 20,000 students enrolled.
Kabul University in a statement said Ghairat, whose formal academic qualifications have not been officially disclosed, is only the acting vice-chancellor and the post can be reshuffled at any time.
A senior professor at Kabul University said News from academia on condition of anonymity, fearing for his life: “This is total nonsense.
“When the Chancellor is absent, his academic and administrative assistants take charge without hassle; it was not necessary to “play” with the academic institutions of the country, “he added.
In the past nine decades since the university’s inception, analysts say, the university has for the first time seen a politically motivated decision to install an unqualified figure as its head. Some noted that under Article 5 of the Law of the Ministry of Higher Education, the chancellor of a higher education institution must be chosen from among the senior professors of the institution concerned.
Threat of resignation
A number of lecturers and professors at Kabul University said dozens of them were about to submit their resignations against what they saw as an “illegal” act of the Taliban regime, which they said. consider it detrimental to future generations of the country. According to some reports, 70 teachers have indicated they may resign.
Afghan news agency Khaama Press said the Union of University Teachers had set a one-week deadline for the Taliban to reconsider their appointment.
Academic commentator Dr Obaidullah Wardag, lamenting the change at the highest level at Kabul University, said the former chancellor had served the university for nearly four decades in various positions, while the chancellor appointed by the Taliban had hardly served in a reputable academic body.
“As a result of such appointments, professors and lecturers will find their own way and leave the university, because in a university where there is no standard for appointing a director, there is no hope of criteria. and principles for something else ”. He said the appointment would have an impact on the country’s entire higher education system.
The decision also sparked a buzz on social media, with many Afghans criticizing the decision and sharing a post allegedly from Ghairat’s Twitter account in June 2020 openly calling for the killing of “spy journalists.” The message has since been deleted from the account in his name.
However, Ghairat embraced his new role with a newly created Twitter account. In a series of messages in English, he claimed that he remained capable and experienced for the task.
“The propaganda is carried out mainly by journalists and personalities living outside the AFG [Afghanistan]. They should know that the propaganda they disseminate will never harm the IEA’s engagement [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] for bringing about massive positive changes in AFG’s education sector. You can’t ridicule people with edited photos, ”he tweeted, referring to images circulating on social media claiming to be of him as a fighter.
“For all those who criticize my appointment as chancellor of Kabul University, I ask you to calm down and learn about me and my academic background. By the grace of Allah, I have spent all my life in academic centers and have been a seeker and seeker of knowledge all my life. I see myself fully qualified to occupy this chair, ”Ghairat said in a series of tweets on September 21.
Ghairat also said via Twitter that he graduated from the Faculty of Journalism at Kabul University in 2008 and had “almost 15 years of experience working in different parts of the IEA”, referring to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as it is called under the Taliban.
Islamization of the university
Ghairat also pledged to “Islamize” the Kabul University (KU) curriculum. “We are working on a procedure to appoint more pro-Muslim academics to KU, which will help our plan to Islamize the program soon,” he said via Twitter.
He said India today magazine in an interview published on September 23: “We will have separate classes for men and women and our main objective will be to provide an Islamic environment for all, especially women. He added that music would not be allowed on campus.
More than a month after seizing power in the Afghan capital Kabul, cementing their grip on the country, the Taliban are struggling to reopen public sector universities as part of an uncompromising policy of gender segregation. The thorny path chosen by the Islamists is proving difficult to implement for large public universities, experts said.
Driven by growing student demand for education, some private universities resumed classes on September 6, accepting Taliban demands such as raising barriers inside classrooms to separate male students and women. Many students stayed away. Public institutions have not yet been able to resume.