The History of Ofarin
Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German doctor and nun, who has great services to fight leprosy in Pakistan, launched in 1984 the Afghan anti-leprosy program Lepco. Following the overthrow of the Communists in Afghanistan in 1992, the headquarters of Lepco was relocated from Pakistan to Afghanistan. For the lenders, Lepco was thus virtually independent of the Pakistani program.
They called on the director of Lepco to found a club registered in Germany , which is legally responsible for Lepco. The director asked Peter Schwittek to take on this task. The club was founded in 1994. His name was GESA. In 1993, Lepco also took on the fight against tuberculosis. Lepco has long been a successful program that is highly regarded.In 2010, GESA relinquished its responsibility for Lepco to a panel of German aid organizations under the leadership of the German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association (DAHW), so that Lepco could be given more opportunities to improve its work for Afghanistan. GESA has dissolved.
GESA was fixed by his statute entirely on the tasks of Lepco. Not even a general medical health center could havebeen operated by GESA, let alone build a bridge. The implementation of such projects was sometimes very useful. Therefore the membership of GESA founded in 1996 another club with very general task called OFARIN. The chairman in the first ten years after the founding was judge Prof. Dr. med. Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany.
OFARIN initially remained idle. In 1998, when the Taliban were in power, Peter Schwittek took over the management of an office called COFAA in Kabul, which was funded by Caritas organizations in various countries. The focus of the work of this office soon became a mosque school program in Kabul and in the provinces of Logar and Wardak. In this program, students up to the sixth grade were able to attend normal schooling, which took place in mosques. Girls were also allowed to attend those lessons.
This was quite extraordinary, because the Taliban had banned any schooling for girls. So this program gave girls and women courage and hope in this difficult time. There were more than 10,000 students taught, the scarce half girls.
Despite this very important program, the office COFAA was closed at the end of 2000 for financial reasons. However, two of the donors, the German Caritas Association and the American Catholic Relief Services, were ready to further promote the mosque school program. The responsibility was assumed by OFARIN. The staff of COFAA switched to OFARIN.
In the years around the turn of the millennium Afghanistan suffered from a severe drought. OFARIN organized well construction projects that saved large vineyards, provided hospitals with drinking water and created public pumps for Kabul districts. While the Taliban were expelled by the US Air Force in 2001, OFARIN was able to pay emergency wages to all staff in some hospitals, thereby maintaining the functioning of these facilities.
Even after the fall of the Taliban, the mosque school program remained the focus of the work. Part of the lessons were now also held in private homes. For financial reasons, the number of students dropped to 4,000 and then rose again to 9,000 by 2016. The lessons focused on the elementary education (comparable to us: up to the third grade).Learning to read and write and master the basic arithmetic with applications were in the foreground.
We followed the curricula of the public school. In these, the fourth grade required the learning of the second language and of English as foreign languages. The state schools are completely overwhelmed with this task. OFARIN could not afford a similar failure and therefore limited his teaching to the material of the first three years of school.
OFARIN's activities are based on a contract with the Ministry of Religious Affairs responsible for the mosques and Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. This ministry and the imams of the mosques in which we operate are responsible for the religious instruction that is also provided by our teachers.
The cooperation with the mullahs in the ministry and in the mosques is friendly and easy. OFARIN considers this relationship particularly important. Since King Amanullah, who came to power in 1919, the Afghan government has been trying to modernize the country from the top down without adequate reforms being agreed with the social group.
The military, the judiciary and the school system were to be rebuilt according to the Western model. Until then, the justice and literacy of youth, if any, had been in the hands of the Islamic clergy. The mullahs lost in influence and thwarted the construction of the school system, as far as they could. The Afghan society was split and a lot of blood was spilled.
Since the expulsion of the Taliban at the end of 2001, the state and the clergy have lived together peacefully. But in large parts of the population there is still uncertainty whether the visit of the state schools is not against the religion. OFARIN has learned that if you want to make progress in Afghanistan you have to take the mullahs with you. Cooperation with the mosques and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which no other organization has to that extent, is therefore an important contribution to Afghanistan's internal reconciliation.
In 2006, OFARIN's work was awarded the Würzburg Peace Prize.
From 2002 to 2008, OFARIN supported an orphanage for boys and also some individual classes especially for girls in Wardak province. This had to be abandoned because of the increasingly troubled situation there.
In 2008, OFARIN began a pre-school program in Kabul, which was run by Anne Marie Schwittek. The Afghan women are mostly at home, but they are overloaded by the archaic housework and especially the high number of children. So the older siblings, cousins take care of the younger ones - usually with little enthusiasm. Communication hardly takes place. The children know very little when they come to school. They weren't able to designate the colors. They learned something like this in our preschool. They developed understanding of the single-digit numbers and terms as above and below, right and left. They painted a lot and enthusiastically.
The up to 700 preschoolers were with great zeal in the matter. They sucked up the news, they learned like sponges. If a pre-school class had taken their stuff, which was the case after a good six months, they were taken to the mosque school program.
The financing of OFARIN's mosque school program in 2005 passed to the Episcopal charity Misereor. The pre-school program was supported by the Staub-Kaiser Foundation in Winterthur (CH) and the Kindermissionswerk.
OFARIN and already COFAA have always worked to improve the quality of teaching. It was tried a lot and there were also detours. For many years OFARIN's educational achievements have been superior to those of all other organizations active in elementary education in Afghanistan. The demand for additional education is overwhelming.
At the end of 2016 Misereor informed us that the Episcopal charitywill not support us any further, because the security situation hardly makes the deployment of own staff possible. OFARIN will receive transitional support until the end of February 2018, which will make emergency operation possible for about half of the students. The pre-school education was discontinued until further notice, because the takeover of classes in the mosque school program is no longer possible.
OFARIN has intensified its public relations work and will also ask for support from institutions such as foundations. Helpful should be a report about us, which will be broadcast in a few days by the broadcaster ARTE. The mosque school program will definitely continue, perhaps only on a very small scale. This will help keep the unusually successful teaching methods for Afghanistan alive . Such a program must not be lost.
Randersacker in October 2017 Peter Schwittek.