‘I KNOW, BA BA’
Wilhite said the state of education in Afghanistan before work began was extremely limited.
“They were trying to re-establish their higher education system but it was a slow process,” he said.
About 6 percent of the Afghanistan population is younger than age 55, according to the most recent estimates in the CIA World Factbook. About 28 percent of the people age 15 and older can read and write, and of those 43.1 percent are males and 12.6 percent are female. School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) is eight years — 10 years for males and six years for females.
In 2004, 352 candidates applied for the first class of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan; in 2012, there were almost 6,000 applicants, and the current enrollment is up 3,000-plus. Current faculty number 300-plus, up from the initial 25 faculty. In 2009, women were admitted.
“It is forecasted that the National Academy of Afghanistan will be as large as West Point in two years,” Wilhite said. “Not bad for starting without a paperclip.”
The academy offers seven languages, Wilhite said. One candidate he visited with spoke five of them. He told the American he would become fluent in the other two.
“I said, ‘Do you know how important it will be for you to speak seven languages?’ His reply was, ‘I know, Ba Ba (Dari for “father”). One day I will be president of Afghanistan.’ These cadets are the top 1 percent of the students academically so that was not an unusual dream.”
The plain-spoken Oklahoman said he hopes the Afghan military will be successful, but expects the organization will experience major growing pains. Afghans consider him to be the “Father of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.” He is also revered as an exceptional goodwill ambassador for America.
The rest of the retired colonel’s story is part of his book “We Answered the Call: Building the Crown Jewel of Afghanistan.” His story will also be told via a film. The draft screenplay has been completed and he is currently seeking financing for either a full-length film or a documentary.
For more information about Wilhite and to buy his book, visit the website of Tate Publishing: weansweredthecall.tateauthor.com.
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