“I want to make the most of these incredible educational opportunities and utilize my gained knowledge and skills to contribute to the development and prosperity of my homeland Afghanistan.”
NCV resident Khalilullah Mayar arrived in mid-2018 as a recipient of the Endeavor Scholarship to complete a PhD in Civil Engineering with a focus on Sustainable Construction and Infrastructure Management at UNSW. Born and raised in Afghanistan, Khalil gained his Bachelor’s degree from Kabul Polytechnic University, where he then worked as a lecturer and led the International Relations and Partnerships Office. A Fulbright Scholar with a Masters degree in Construction and Infrastructure Management from Purdue University (US), Khalil was offered scholarships to carry out his PhD in the US, New Zealand and Australia. Immediately prior to his arrival at NCV Khalil received an Appreciation Award from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). New ‘n’ Old recently asked Khalil about his work with SIGAR and the Afghan Construction and Infrastructure sector.
What is SIGAR and what is the work you are involved in?
The US Congress created the SIGAR Office to provide independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities. I worked as an engineering specialist and project manager with Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) – Afghan partners of SIGAR – for two years between 2016 and 2018, assisting SIGAR’s Audit and Inspection Directorate conducting of inspections and investigations of waste, fraud, and abuse relating to U.S infrastructure projects throughout Afghanistan.
I led a team of 10 professional engineers and several consultants to conduct inspections and determine if the US funded projects were constructed in accordance with the contract, applicable laws, and international standards. My team did inspections of hundreds of infrastructure projects, valued at a total of several billion US dollars.
Why is this important work to be involved with in Afghanistan?
The Afghan engineering system can’t address today’s market needs. Almost four decades of war and social unrest have had a devastating impact on every sector in Afghanistan. The international community has provided billions of dollars for Afghanistan relief and reconstruction since 2002, but due to the prevailing corruption in the country, a considerable amount of this was lost due to waste abuse and fraud, including in the construction and infrastructure sector.
Why did you receive an Award of Appreciation from SIGAR?
I received a token of appreciation from SIGAR Inspector General Mr John Sopko for contributing my part to the very sacred cause of transparency and fight against corruption in the construction and infrastructure sector of Afghanistan over the course of past couple of years.
When did you start becoming passionate about this?
The purpose of life always for me is to serve my people and to give back to the deprived society by setting an example of my own and making a positive difference - no matter what position I hold - as long there is a commitment to service and contribution. After getting my Masters in Construction and Infrastructure Management from Purdue, I returned back home and resumed my teaching career at Kabul Polytechnic University. Additionally, I volunteered to lead the University International Relations and Partnerships Office for initiating academia-industry partnerships for the university as a way of giving back to my alma mater and making a positive difference to transform the university into a research institution.
Why have you come to UNSW? What do you hope to achieve?
After consulting with peers and considering how well my academic and personal aspirations fit here, I decided to embark on this wonderful academic journey at UNSW as it’s one of the finest universities in my field. I am hoping this will not only help me to address the sustainable construction development problems within a post conflict environment such as Afghanistan, but also enable me to improve my teaching through providing quality training and supervision to the deprived Afghan engineering students at Kabul Polytechnic University where the lack of professionals in the field is highly evident.