An inspirational interview with Zahra Soltani, Star alumna
About the interviewer: Hakim Sorush is the Digital Media Manager at Star Educational Society, a Star alumnus, photographer and filmmaker. He graduated from the Fine Art Faculty, Cinema Department of Kabul University. He plans to be a film director in the future.
Would you please introduce yourself?
I am Zahra Sultani, a former student of Star Educational Society from where I graduated in 2009. I am currently a student of one of the universities in the Netherlands, Tilburg University. I am studying Global Management of Social Issues, basically the social sciences. I graduated from Rokhshana High School in Afghanistan. While I was a student, I also studied English at Star. After that I decided to study short term programs that were taught in English, like Project Management and Business Administration. I wanted to improve my English because one of my wishes was to study abroad. This goal might have been because of my experiencing new cultures and receiving a quality education as well as learning English.
What is your idea about social science?
From an academic perspective, I would say that it is good to study Social Science broadly. Like those who study psychology and sociology and even something about politics, they know about the nature of society, how people interact and what problems people encounter. It is learning how people are trying to overcome those challenges and problems and how they react when they face those problems. Also, we are facing a lot of problems all over the world. One of them is climate change; some countries are gathering to solve this most serious problem since it has such an impact upon our future. Of course, social science also deals with issues like poverty, war, human rights and civil war in African and Asian countries. Still, they are facing a lot of problems and challenges. Although some of the countries don’t face these problems, most Asian and African countries face these challenges and problems. Nowadays we can see that most of the people are focusing on economics, and public policy; most of the students are interested in these fields. They are focusing on improving the economy and they are ignoring a very basic and important part of a society which is to evaluate people as to how they interact, what problems they are facing, and how to solve these problems in order to improve the economy and the political situation.
How do you evaluate Afghan society?
Our society needs more awareness because of the civil war. Most people think that they have to solve their problems with war. They are not aware of the challenges existing in the society. Some think that this is our culture and we have to defend it. But I think awareness is needed, educate the people. It is not only Afghan society facing these social problems, but it is something universal, every society even America and some European countries are also facing these problems. They know how to deal with them and they find out the risks in order to prevent them from getting worse in the future. I think the only problem here is that people are just finding the problems. People are not even focusing on how to solve the problems. People from different cultures or ethnicities are saying that they are defending their own culture and ethnicity.
There are many factors that can help us deal with these problems. Teachers in the universities can persuade students to study sociology or social science. It is very important for the young generation to know how to educate themselves about the society and societal traits and how to improve their society. They should know how to increase social awareness in other people. I don’t mean that every individual should study social science, but it should be noted that the internet can be a good source for those who want to promote their social awareness.
How did you find the educational standards abroad?
I think when comparing the quality of education here in Asian countries and Afghanistan with European countries, here are more facilities for students. In universities abroad, we have libraries, we have labs, we have practical work. When we study the theories then we practically work on them. We are working on projects because we have the facilities. We can apply the knowledge that we learned in a practical setting while dealing with people and social issues. Practical studies encourage the students to be ready for what they will face in real life.
I would also like to add that in social science we have to do more research. I think in European countries it easier to enter the society and do research because people participate in research more willingly and provide us more accurate information about the society and the problems in the society. However, it differs in Afghanistan because people avoid taking part in social research. In addition, we ignore women who make up one half of the society. Thus, it is easier to conduct research in European countries because there are no limitations regarding the female gender. I hope that in the future Afghans also may be free of this gender issue. I think research that can be comprehensively conducted in Afghanistan will be very interesting because it is a society encountering many social problems.
What do you think about Interstellar Bulletin?
I have read many interesting articles that reflect the views of students who used to attend Star and later graduated. They were successful students because they found how to continue their higher education in a better environment with better quality. As a result, most of them are studying abroad and maybe a few of them are studying in Afghanistan. The very positive thing that I see is that all of them are pursuing their higher education. I think for the new students who are joining Star it will be very interesting and useful to read about the experiences of successful students. The great achievements of the successful students and Star will motivate new students to reach for the same success or to do even better. It also creates a positive image of the center and can distinguish it from the other academic institutions. It is a great achievement for Star that helps provide a better environment where students can fulfill their dreams. It proves that Star has created golden opportunities for students and is really investing in its students.
Are you hopeful for the future of Afghanistan?
Of course there is hope for Afghanistan especially since there are many young people studying at universities and schools. If we compare the number of the current students with the past, we will see a very big difference and a lot of changes. It is important and makes our people hopeful that girls and boys are curious to learn more and experience a better life. If we have educated generations, they can easily understand the problems existing in the society and they can deal with social challenges. Of course, as a citizen of Afghanistan, I would try my best to encourage other friends to study and get educated in any field in which they are interested. I also encourage students to seek scholarships and study abroad. I am hopeful that the number of students studying abroad will continually increase. Not only is it about what they learn about bettering their own lives, but it is also about what they learn from other societies.
What is your message to the young generation?
My message to them is that they have to get educated in whatever field they are interested. At least they will understand how to read and write and how to educate their children. If in the future they are asked any question about their past life, they will at least be able to describe their past. As a result, an educated mother can motivate her children to have a better education and life because these are the children who will create the future of Afghanistan. If we can’t make a big change in Afghanistan, at least let’s help them make positive changes in the future. I am very happy that I see the children studying at school, even if they can’t get into university they are still striving for a better future for themselves and our country.