A Lifetime of Trauma: Mental Health Challenges for Higher Education in a Conflict Environment in Afghanistan


  • Mohammed Osman Babury Kabul University and Ministry of Higher Education, Afghanistan
  • Fred Manwarren Hayward University of Massachusetts, Amherst




Afghanistan, mental health, higher education, public policy, student services.


More than 30 years of war in Afghanistan have resulted in immense policy challenges to address the resulting mental health issues. The purpose of this policy analysis is to examine the potential role of higher education in addressing the pressing mental health problems in Afghanistan’s public universities and higher education institutions as a major policy challenge. We define and spell out the extent and nature of the mental health problems and policy issues involved, putting them in the context of students in a war environment. We discuss efforts by the leadership of the Ministry of Higher Education to respond to the physical damage of war and the resulting mental health crises in a setting of very scarce human and financial resources. We describe a system of higher education battered by years of war yet seeking to rebuild and raise quality even while the fighting continues. The conditions of the higher education system are described, as well as the scope, complexity and nature of mental health problems, and major challenges faced in trying to rebuild both the system and the lives of the higher education community. We spell out the immense challenges faced in rebuilding a system badly devastated by war while dealing with the tremendous human mental health toll experienced by its students, faculty, and staff. We conclude by setting out some possible directions, options and recommendations for responding to the mental health problems while recognizing the difficulties higher education faces in trying to respond to them.


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Author Biographies

Mohammed Osman Babury, Kabul University and Ministry of Higher Education, Afghanistan

Prof. Mohammad Osman Babury is Deputy Minister for Academic Affairs at the Ministry of Higher Education in Kabul, Afghanistan and Professor of Pharmacognosy at Kabul University. He received his BA and Master’s in Pharmacy from Pyatigorsk Pharmaceutical Institute in Russia.  He has worked in the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy at Kabul University and currently holds the position of Professor.  He because Deputy Minister for Academic Affairs in the Ministry of Higher Education with oversight of 31 higher education institutions in 2007.  He has been Head of Department at Kabul University, General Director of Pharmaceutical Directorate at the Ministry of Public Health, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs of Kabul University, and Chief of the Governing Board, South Asian University in 2011.  He has published twenty-two articles in the field of Pharmacognosy and herbal medicine and is author of the first Dari textbook in the field entitled Pharmacognosy.  His most recent scientific research focused on the study of mumie which is well known in traditional medicine in Afghanistan.

Fred Manwarren Hayward, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Dr. Fred M. Hayward is Senior Higher Education Advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education, and works for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Center for International Education. He is a specialist on higher education with more than 30 years of experience as an educator, scholar, senior administrator and higher education consultant.  He has a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a B.A. from the University of California.  He has taught at the University of Ghana, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was Professor of Political Science, department chair, and Dean of International Programs. He was Executive Vice President of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and Senior Associate for the American Council on Education for more than ten years. He has been a higher education consultant for the World Bank, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, Academy for Educational Development, USAID, and Ministries of Education, focusing on higher education change, governance, strategic planning, and accreditation.   Dr. Hayward has written extensively on development issues and higher education.




How to Cite

Babury, M. O., & Hayward, F. M. (2013). A Lifetime of Trauma: Mental Health Challenges for Higher Education in a Conflict Environment in Afghanistan. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21, 68. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v21n68.2013