February 28, 2013
Fulbright student Moslem Shah (MAIPS ’13) had his pick of U.S. universities, but chose the Monterey Institute of International Studies because he felt it would fit his long term plans to take on a leading role in rebuilding his native Afghanistan after three decades of war. “My experience here, both personally and professionally, has gone way beyond my expectations,” says Moslem, adding that he loves how the diverse student body has helped him to broaden his perspective.
Moslem is from the ancient city of Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city in the beautiful and fertile province that bears its name, close to the borders of Iran and Turkmenistan. His mother was a schoolteacher, but she and his sister were banned from schools under the Taliban rule. When he came home from school he would teach his sister what he had learned, and soon she started to invite her friends over to get lessons as well. Before long, the demand for his services led the family to rent out a space to accommodate more girls.
Eventually the Taliban heard of the underground school, and at the age of 15, Moslem was arrested. “I was lucky,” he says modestly, “because my father used all his connections and got me freed my second night in custody.” The school was shut down, but he kept his underground teaching practice—this time even further underground.
When the Taliban left power, Moslem had just finished high school. He was still passionate about girls’ education and founded Youth Development Program (YDP), recruiting university students to volunteer to teach young girls who needed help making up for lost time with their schooling. “We created curriculums that lasted six to 12 months to help girls prepare for official school placement exams,” Moslem says of the program he founded that helped 300 girls further their education. He quietly adds that he is very proud of their accomplishments.
Moslem has high hopes and ambitious plans to improve the quality of education in his beloved Afghanistan. One of his ideas is to replicate the Teach for America model to fit Afghani culture and Islam, and he has already created a business plan and assembled a team to help further this goal. Another idea is to facilitate the creation of a consortium of private universities that would serve as academic advisors to build the capacity of Afghani policy-makers. He wants to start working on both plans this summer after he graduates from the Monterey Institute. We can’t wait to follow his progress.