By David Ross - February 2004
Scouting has started to emerge in Afghanistan after having been banned by
the country's Communist Government in 1978.
In early 2002, groups began to emerge, led by adults who had been involved with the program back then. Twenty five years of war have left Afghanistan with a broken communication system. Word has been slow to spread between Scout groups. As a result, each group designs its own uniform and badges.
What all groups have in common, though, is the fact they are sponsored by the Ministry of Education.
All Scout leaders are currently teachers and all Scouts work in the school, acting as hall monitors, crossing guards and an honour guard for school visitors.
Some groups are beginning to work outside the school as well, making public announcements at the bazaar, cleaning the mosques, helping firefighters, performing first aid and helping injured people get to hospital. The scout program is mostly about being good citizens rather than having fun.
The national office in Kabul, which operates out of two rooms in the Ministry of Education building, estimates there are about 20,000 Scouts across Afghanistan. There are very few computers, almost no Internet access and no countrywide telephone system. Scouts have to be counted during visits to the regions.
New ideas from Kabul are difficult to spread.
Currently the Afghan Scout Association offers Cubs (ages 11 to 13), Scouts (ages 14-18) and Rovers (ages 19-25). Cubs, Scouts and Rovers all wear their uniforms to school (university in the case of Rovers) as that is where they perform most of their duties.
Scouts have to make their own uniforms. First, they buy the tan-coloured
material from the bazaar and then take it to a tailor to have it made into
a shirt and tailored pants (boys), or long shirt and baggy pants (girls).
Boys also have to tailor make a pillbox hat from the same tan material.
Girls wear either the pillbox hat or a chador, a head covering scarf. A
leather Scout belt with a brass belt buckle completes the uniform. The
total cost for these items is about 500 Afghanis, or 10 dollars, a huge sum
when one considers the monthly salary for a teacher in Afghanistan is about
Scouts usually perform odd jobs to earn the money a few Afghanis at a time and often a Scout group will pool its money to buy a uniform for a new member.
More photos of the Afghan Scouting Organization can be seen here
Article submitted by: David Ross, Lieutenant Colonel, UNAMA Military Liaison Officer, Kunduz, Afghanistan. Photos used with permission.
If you are interested in getting involved with the Scout movement follow these links: