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Professor risks life to bring literacy to his native Afghanistan

May 09, 2012

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Just a few months ago, Lewis & Clark professor of education Zaher Wahab was asked to take on a nearly impossible assignment—come to Kabul immediately and work with the deputy minister of education to revise Afghanistan’s literacy plan.

In Afghanistan, 70 percent of men and 90 percent of women, including Wahab’s own mother and three sisters, are illiterate. His one-year UNESCO appointment involves assessing the current literacy plan—goals, curriculum, materials, and training protocols—and creating a new, achievable version. As part of the job, Wahab travels the country to observe school practices.

Despite the personal risk, Wahab accepted the special assignment without hesitation. Former student Stephan Morris M.A. ’10 believes that if anyone can bring literacy to Afghanistan, it’s Wahab.

“He inspired me to be not only a better teacher, but a better thinker and a better citizen,” Morris said. “He is so driven and so motivated to make the world better for his people.”

As Wahab told the Oregonian, “I don’t care if I don’t see the utopia. The struggle for change must and will go on, and we must have hope and faith for a better day.”

Learn more about Zaher Wahab’s experiences in Afghanistan in this Oregonian article and in this profile written by Dan Sadowsky and originally published in the summer 2009 issue of the Chronicle.

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