Skip to comments.35,000 flock to join the Afghan Scouts
Posted on 08/13/2007 10:12:03 AM PDT by fgoodwin
35,000 flock to join the Afghan Scouts
By Eleanor Mayne in Kabul, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:35am BST 12/08/2007
After nearly three decades of war, never has the motto "Be Prepared" had more resonance. As the worldwide Scout movement celebrates its 100th birthday this month, war-torn Afghanistan has become the unlikely setting for a boom in recruits.
More than 35,000 young Afghans have boosted the ranks of the Afghanistan Scout Association since the fall of the fundamentalist Taliban five years ago.
From conflict-ravaged Helmand to the capital Kabul, Scout groups have been established in 24 of the 34 provinces, and the government has included scouting in a new national education strategy.
Unlike their Western counterparts, however, the main aim of Afghanistan's Scouts is not map-reading or knot-tying. The focus is on peace. In a climate of continuing conflict, young Afghan Scouts are taught to pass on a message of non-violence by urging adults to lay down their weapons.
"We are telling the students in school to put down guns and work for peace," said scout leader Gul Ahmed Mustafa. "The children tell their parents. It is a very important message. They also do cleaning classrooms, watering flowers, planting trees, first aid and cleaning the city."
The Scouts, called "Sarandoy" in Pashto, are aged from seven to 25, with three categories equivalent to cubs, scouts and rovers. Scout troops are based at schools and one third are female. Leaders are usually teachers.
British Scouts would feel at home with many of their Afghan counterparts' rituals. The Scout promise is almost identical to the UK version, with its vow to "do my best and do my duty to God". The salute is the same and the motto "Be Prepared" is translated directly as "Tayarosay" in Pashto and "Umade Bashi" in Dari.
But in place of the British activity badges - with names such as artist, chef or collector - an Afghan Scout has only two options. The first is "literacy", which usually involves teaching a neighbour or family member to read and write. The second is "training", a programme based mainly around athletics and races. The children also practise tying knots and go camping in the mountains.
Mr Mustafa said: "We want many different badges. They are a necessity for Scouting. We plan to introduce the swimmer and the bicycler. But for now there are no swimming pools and not so many bicycles."
Lord Baden-Powell set up the first Scout camp for 20 boys on Brownsea island, in Poole Harbour, Dorset. It spread to Afghanistan in 1931 but was banned after the communist coup in 1978. There was an attempt to reinstate Scouting in 1996 but it foundered over the Taliban's ban on education for girls. The organisation was re-established in 2002 with support from the education ministry.
The setting of the association's national Afghan office highlights the country's turbulent history. Only a stone's throw from a stadium used by the Taliban for executions, the concrete building has bullet-scarred walls and barbed wire on its perimeter. There is no electricity and water is pumped from a well provided by the United Nations. Last year, the total budget for the country was only £1,470.
Safiullah Subat, chief of the Afghanistan Scout Association and the only full-time staff member, said: "The government wants to help but Scouting is not the first priority. There are so many problems."
But the future is brighter. The education strategy includes a proposal to provide £18 uniforms for 20,000 Scouts and to recruit five Scout trainers for each province.
Mr Subat said: "We believe Scouting is very important for our country. In Scouting we are a family, whether Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara or Pashtun. It can create unity between the people of Afghanistan and between girls and boys."
Please ping your Scouting list.
Organizations like Scouting are of utmost importance, especially to a fledgling nation as it begins trying to move into modernism. Wall Street Journal had a good article today on roads, banks and mobile phones in Afghanistan.
Young men and women will be taught how to be trustworthy,loyal helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Can’t go wrong with that stuff.
“Mr Mustafa said: “We want many different badges. They are a necessity for Scouting. We plan to introduce the swimmer and the bicycler. But for now there are no swimming pools and not so many bicycles.”
AK47 shooting for the scout team sounds like a winner to me. It’s a range master thing get over it.
This article is beyond anything I can comprehend. Gees, what a way of life.
IIRC, when the Iraq Scouts were re-instituted the BSA collected money and forwarded it to the World Organization of Scouting Movements (the oversight group that the BSA and most other national Scouting movements belong to) for disbursement to them. I wonder if National is doing anything similar for the Afghan Scouts?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.