Advisor to AfRA Director-General and CEO

Student completes thesis in Afghanistan

A University of Canterbury student who has just graduated with a commerce degree completed much of his thesis in Afghanistan, avoiding suicide bombings and kidnappings.

Najib Hedayatullah gives his own insight of what he had to face along his journey of gaining a Master of Commerce from the University of Canterbury. Gaining his masters degree is a great achievement, especially given the challenges he faced writing it up from Kabul.

Najib was a refugee and came to Christchurch from Afghanistan as a teenage refugee and had to make his own way. His supervisor Associate Professor Colleen Mills says Najib went from repeatedly failing to get a bachelors degree to achieving an honours degree then a masters.


“As I was analysing data for my thesis Afghanistan was going through elections which was an opportunity for my home country to head down a path of stability and prosperity. I had the choice of staying in peaceful Christchurch and continue my research or to go to Kabul and participate in the historical and transformational event. With my wife and two children – eight months and two years old ­ – I became part of a movement which assisted the nation in taking on democracy.

“I now have a job as advisor to the director-general and the chief executive of the Afghanistan Railway Authority. I am also the project manager of a $20 million project for the management, operation, maintenance and training of people involved in the Afghanistan rail line.

“During my stay in Kabul and in the course of my University of Canterbury research analysis I faced many problems such as no electricity. Billions of dollars of aid poured into Afghanistan but because of widespread corruption, Afghanistan still does not have good electricity generating plants. They import electricity from the neighbouring counties. Security was another challenge, suicide bombings and kidnappings were major worries.

“Every morning when I was leaving home I was not sure if I would get back home alive. So the above factors had put me under enormous mental pressure, but when I was thinking why I was in that country it was worth it.

“Although my family and I are now back living in Christchurch I am going back to Afghanistan to assist technocrats following the election and continue my work in assisting Afghanistan building its first railway network of 6200km.

According to the strategic plan of the new government this network will be the backbone for turning Afghanistan to a transportation hub linking China to the Middle East and Europe and linking central Asian states to southern Asian countries.

“As I enter a business career, based in Christchurch, I am grateful to the University of Canterbury and staff who have been fantastic for helping me achieve my goals.”

Source: Student completes thesis in Afghanistan, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 29 April 2015

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