Category Archives: Blog EN

An experience of itinerant teachers

Behnam, Imani and Adeeb discuss their three-year field experience as itinerant teachers in Nai Qala schools

“We are three teachers who all worked with the Nai Qala Association (NQA) for 3 years. We travelled and helped hundreds of girls during these three years. We went to 6 different schools and students came from over 50 villages to attend our classes. 

The goal of our program was to help girls to get into university or any higher education. Even today in Afghanistan, the quality of education is still low and is a challenge. This is even more challenging in the rural regions as well as for students in such areas. Furthermore, for girls it is even more challenging. We are very proud to help those girls and give them hope.

We were tasked by NQA, but once we went to those remote regions without any phone connection, we did not need to be supervised by someone from NQA. We did our job with commitment. For us, the motivation was created by NQA leadership. We worked under very tough circumstances in those very remote regions. 

We were not only teaching the students, but we worked also socially with the parents and elders. We talked about the value of education and why it is important. We took our time because these regions are veryundeveloped and had never had such things explained to them. The communities also took these messagesvery seriously as our contribution was very concrete and visible. We talked positively about their abilities and how they should believe in themselves.

In some cases, when we identified some girls who had greater difficulties with their lessons or even did not attend our classes,  we took our time to walk for hours to meet their parents to discuss and explain why their daughter had such difficulties or encourage them to allow their daughters to come to school. It was much appreciated that someone would even “bother” to think about their children. But for us, this was a normal duty for our country to do it and make our own minimum contribution.

We created such a positive atmosphere that students started to be rarely absent or not at all. The children became very motivated to attend school.

Another very important point was that we contributed to the local economy of those remote regions. The communities used to send their children to towns for extra tutoring in  their school subjects. This program was not only important for the students but particularly for their parents as they could save money by not sending them to town. Our program was of the same quality as those in the towns. Furthermore, the students got higher marks in class. 

These 3 years helped us to learn how to be disciplined and take responsibility. This mission was the biggest learning of life. We learn more  when we are challenged. Our mission was extremely challenging, and this was important. Sometimes we had to wash our faces early in the morning, at temperatures of below 30 degrees. We had to break the ice in order to get to the water. These were the moments when we thought we could not carry on. Then we would see the girls arriving after an hour’s walk in such cold weather,  with their frozen scarves around their necks. That was the moment that convinced us to remain and help those girls… this is the reason for our motivation! 

Finally, another important point was that we discovered another province, that was even more isolated than our own. We also realized how another province can be beautiful with its culture and tradition, how they live with dignity and pride in spite of extreme poverty.

We shall remain loyal always to NQA and its vision for Afghanistan and its strong belief in change and hope for those girls in those isolated areas… “

With respect,


Behnam, Emani and Adeeb

Editor’s note:After three years of serving the Nai Qala Association, Behnam, Emani and Adeeb have chosen to return to a more sedentary life. They have obtained state teaching positions in their home region.

Nai Qala pre-primary project is expanding

The success of pre-primary education

The early childhood education not only gives the children a head-start at school, but also creates the foundations for their long-term success. The rewards the children reap stay with them throughout their education. These children also act as role models within the school system and motivate and help the others. The program directly contributes to a decrease in school drop-out rates.

Collaboration between pre-primary and primary school

NQA creates a link with the  local government run primary schools and helps to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the primary schools.

NQA understands the importance of this bridging the gap and not only prepares the young children for school through their learning and development but also runs collaborative workshops for the teachers of the pre-primary schools together with those who teach first grade at the primary schools. In this way NQA contributes to preparing the school environment for the children. This strong collaboration between the teachers, parents, pupils and the community is one of the key factors in NQA’s programs.

We have also noticed that the introduction of pre-primary instruction has an impact on the family, as a whole as the children share their knowledge and skills at home for mothers and fathers to apply with their children, infants and toddlers. The whole family benefits and are included in the program.

Sustainable development goals

NQA is proud to contribute to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goalsin particular those dealing with education and gender equality.

A secondary aim of this program is to create greater women’s empowerment, with young women playing a key role in project implementation as teachers and supervisors.

Early childhood education is fundamental for children’s development, for the education system and for society as a whole.

Following the success of Nai Qala’s early education program that began in 2017, over the next years the program will be expanded. This year sees the first stage with the setting up of a further 14 pre-primary classes. Through this program, Nai Qala is helping children with the important transition from the home environment to that of formal school.

An organization supported by a network of volunteers

Despite an efficient team in Afghanistan, the Nai Qala association would not be able to operate without its network of motivated volunteers.

Since 2007, the Nai Qala Association (NQA) has built schools and a health center to serve needy communities in the remote mountainous regions of Afghanistan. Nai Qala has changed the lives of thousands of people, from girls and boys finally accessing formal education to families improving their health standards and economic status.

For the same period of time, NQA has also significantly increased its operational capacity in Afghanistan, by setting up and strengthening an efficient team in Kabul, both quantitively and qualitatively. However, nothing can be taken for granted; none of NQA’s achievement would been possible without the dedication and hard work of NQA board members and volunteers in Switzerland and in Afghanistan.

Volunteers in Switzerland and Afghanistan

In Switzerland, the organization is governed by a board of volunteers with expertise in a variety of areas such as humanitarian, health or education. NQA is also supported there by a large network of volunteers who bring their contributions in different formats. Some have networks in local communities and help organize fundraising events, some help with writing and communication, some with translations, others with legal matters, or with managing NQA’s website and social media presence.

At the very beginning of NQA’s activity, the President’s accommodation and transportation in Afghanistan was entirely provided by local volunteers. Nai Qala can still count on several volunteers in Kabul today, whether for translations, travel or, as seen recently, for welcoming guests during the opening of the photo exhibition at Kabul University. Such local commitment also shows the Afghans own strong engagement and determination to participate in creating their own future.

All volunteers and board members believe strongly in profound change in the rural regions of Afghanistan. They give their time during or after their work, in the evenings, weekends or during holidays. They are committed to help with fundraising and do not hesitate when they have to chop onions or tomatoes to prepare a meal to raise money for Nai Qala. The way they help is an inspiring example of the volunteer philosophy. Some of them are almost “professional volunteers” and each of them is a symbol of solidarity between communities in Switzerland and those in Afghanistan. 

Volunteering is used as a motivation message to NQA’s staff in Afghanistan – as well as to the communities that NQA helps, the construction companies NQA works with, and NQA’s government partners: “We Afghans must not take anything for granted. We must show accountability for all support that comes to us from the efforts of hard-working and good-hearted volunteers who do so much for us”reminds regularly Mrs. Rahim, NQA’s president.

The Nai Qala Association and all its beneficiaries are very thankful to all these people who dedicate their time, skills and passion to make remote rural Afghanistan a better place.  

Construction starts at Anda

An official ceremony to celebrate the start of a new construction project and to honor Nai Qala’s impact with a strong symbol

The official inauguration of the new Anda School took place in May in the presence of the authorities and the local population, parents and students. This event represents the philosophy of our association.

The construction of a school is an important step towards the acquisition of the necessary knowledge for the future of young girls and boys, but above all it is a wonderful opportunity to promote the development of a region, and lasting change in women and men’s mentalities towards better equal opportunities. Through this new project, Nai Qala continues its commitment to create a gradual but powerful change that will influence the interactions between women and men.

The girls symbolically start the construction

By proposing two young female students to dig the first spadeful of earth for the school, Nai Qala wants to show the importance of women in the community. It is a simple gesture, but it is an important symbol for women’s engagement and role in Afghan society and their dignity.

It is through simple actions at solemn events in front of the entire community that Nai Qala pursues its goals to improve the image of women and show communities that they can only develop with the contribution of women.

The project has just started and is expected to be completed in November before the snow arrives.

A workshop for preschool teachers

The Nai Qala Association recently organized a workshop to improve the capacity of the preschool teachers working in the villages of the region of Nai Qala.

The Nai Qala Association organized in the premises of the organization in Kabul, earlier in April, a workshop to improve the capacity of the preschool teachers working in the villages of the region of Nai Qala. Eight teachers participated in the training and deepened their knowledge about the objectives of preschool, the importance of active learning, children’s rights, sustainability, efficient teaching methodologies, play groups in the community, the role and importance of communication. All topics were actively discussed and illustrated by the daily experiences of the teachers.

Preschool is a new concept in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, people generally do not know what preschool is and are not aware of its importance for children’s development from an educational, emotional and behavioral point of view. Teachers highlighted how early childhood education, at preschool level, is laying the foundations for later formal education but also for children as future citizens. The importance of playing was heavily discussed and recognized as a means to instill behavior changes. Playtime in preschool gives opportunities to children to collaborate, to accomplish things they are proud of, to learn patience and to share. Teachers were impressed by the potential of play to foster changes. 

The participants showed great interest in the topic of children’s rights. “Children have rights”, “Children must be respected as any other human being” were recurrent sentences among the participants. The teachers discovered how to improve their own behavior with preschool children.

Teachers showed great enthusiasm for their daily work and  huge motivation for their educational work and shared many anecdotes. Everyone was very happy to participate in this workshop. They learnt a lot about children’s development and about preschool in general but would like to grow their knowledge and receive more in-service training in the future.

The feed-back of a participant

Qasem, the most recent recruit of the organization, also attended the training, both as a participant and a trainer. He shares his feelings about the workshop:

“The preschool workshop was one of the most useful experiences that I ever had. Although the workshop was designed to improve the skills of preschool teachers, I also learned a lot in this workshop. Because preschool is still in its early stages in Afghanistan, I  have never had the opportunity to get such in-depth knowledge about preschool and its role in children’s development. The workshop gave me the opportunity to learn more about preschool, its values and importance for developing children abilities in their later stages of life.  

This workshop was very pleasant and enjoyable for many reasons. On the one hand, I was involved in organizing and planning the workshop as much as I could. On the other hand, this was my first educational and formal workshop where I had the opportunity to present a topic. This experience gave me confidence that I have the capacity to speak to a large audience. In addition, this workshop has created self-confidence and motivation for me, that I am now determined to talk in large seminars and workshops on behalf Nai-qala.

At this workshop, I found that preschool teachers were talking with a lot of interest and motivation about children and preschool classes… and this really impressed me. I learned a lot from this workshop about children’s education, the content and philosophy of preschool, daily routines and I listened with great interest to the stories teachers shared about their classes and their daily experiences with children. Furthermore, this workshop was very motivational for me and I discovered how the Nai Qala Association staff and teachers are committed and tirelessly working to promote children’s education in rural areas, and now I feel committed more than ever to work harder for those deprived communities.” 

The origin of Nai Qala, its name and the vision behind it

Nai Qala’s president, Taiba Rahim, speaks about the origins of the name of the organization.

Today I would like to share how the Nai Qala Association began. First of all, what does Nai Qala mean? 

Nai (ني) is the bamboo plant. But Nai also means a flute (the musical instrument). Qala means a fortified city. So Nai Qala is “city of bamboo”. People say that there were many bamboo plants in this valley in the past, though there are none there today.

However, there is also another story about Nai Qala’s origin. Nai Qala is located in the district of Qara Bagh, in Ghazni Province (south-central Afghanistan). The Ghaznavid dynasty ruled Ghazni from 998 to 1030 – part of an empire that extended into India.  

Legend has it that in the Nai Qala region there was a prison. Travelers who passed through this region reported hearing the sound of home-made flutes – played by prisoners passing the long days. So the name of Nai Qala could be linked to the “city of bamboo” or to the “city of flutes”. 

My father was born and raised in the Nai Qala valley. Despite its rich history, the area has been forgotten for centuries. When my father was growing up, Nai Qala had no school, no clinic, no road and absolutely no infrastructure. He was a humble and modest shepherd but with a great vision. I am one of his nine children. He was convinced that only through education could we extract ourselves from poverty and isolation. 

He made a decision that was both courageous and unusual for someone from that region. He left Nai Qala and moved to a town where it was possible for his children to go to school. All of us children got a decent education. I am very grateful for that and today I want to honor my father and continue his vision. 

In 2007 I created an association with the aim of building schools for the thousands of girls and boys in those remote regions. I named this association Nai Qala because:

  • This area is a reminder of some of the great periods of Afghan history – Ghazni was a key city in the empires of Cyrus of Persia and Alexander the Great, it was a major trading centre along the Silk Road from China to the West as well as during the Ghaznavid period a thousand years ago. Even if today our country is going through a tough period of war, we Afghans must remind ourselves of our history to help us restore our identity and build a sense of pride in ourselves…
  • I want to honor the village that was the home of my father and mother who so courageously moved away from the only world they knew to give their children a better future. It must have been a difficult choice…
  • I also want to be reminded every day of who I am. No matter what I do, where I go or whether I succeed or fail, I am reminded constantly of my background – a desperately poor village where the children had nothing to dream of or hope for. 

Today NQA has expanded its activities in many other rural regions but I shall always remain committed to that village, and others like it. I remain committed to my country which, I believe, needs my contribution if ever we are going to give Afghanistan’s children hope in the future.”

Taiba Rahim
President,
Nai Qala Association

Pedagogical training for 10 teachers from the schools of Waras

The low quality of education in the country’s remote rural areas is a constant concern for Nai Qala, which was committed to supporting once again a teacher training program this winter.

After having supported in-service teacher training projects in schools built by the Association since 2016, Nai Qala was once again committed to the quality of education through a new project. This program, organized in partnership with a French NGO, aims to improve the language and core subject skills, as well as the teaching skills of ten teachers from Dewan and Safed Ghaow schools. 

Over the past four decades, Afghanistan has suffered from severe conflict; war has destroyed all infrastructures and paralyzed the education system. At the same time, we must remember that even before the war, many parts of the country had long been neglected by the central afghan governments. Investment in education was limited to certain urban centers and other regions were forgotten. 

At present therefore, the poor quality of education is a matter of concern, resulting from both the war and preceding isolation of rural areas. The main reasons for this problem are the shortage of professional teachers, the lack of teaching materials, the inappropriate classroom environment and threats to security in some areas. In addition, reports also indicate that the teacher-centered approach is still practiced,and that corporal punishment can becommon in some schools. 

Despite progress in building teachers’ capacities, more than half of them lack the required qualifications and pedagogical skills, which is considered a major challenge for quality education in Afghanistan. Duria, a young female teacherwho attended the course confirms:“I am graduated from the social science faculty, but I got a position as a math teacher in Dewan School, sincethere was nojobopportunity in social sciencefor me”. 

A partnership with another NGO

The new Nai Qala project is being carried out in partnership with the French NGO AFRANE (Amitié Franco-Afghane), which already in 2002 signed protocols with the Ministry of Education to organize training for teaching staff in the schools it supports. Every year during the winter months, AFRANE organizes an intensive training session for teachers in the Waras district. Training generally takes place from January to mid-March, when students are not in school due to extreme weather conditions. Since 2015, teachers have been accommodated in premises built for this purpose by AFRANE, where they are fed and housed because the remoteness and snow make daily travel to their homes impossible.

About a hundred teachers from the district’s schools participated in this winter’s training during which they were not only accommodated in boarding schools but also trained in languages (Dari, English), fundamental sciences (mathematics, physics) and IT. The training was provided by qualified trainers based on the skills and level of the 100 teachers present, and included five hours of instruction per day, in accordance with the curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and specifically designed to improve theoretical knowledge. In addition, teachers received personal support in the evenings. “As participating teachers were coming from different schools in Waras district, it was a great opportunity to exchange our ideas, and to learn from each other”said Mr. Amir, another teacher from Dewan school.

10 teachers from schools built by Nai Qala in training

The 10 teachers from the 2 Nai Qala schools in Waras district who benefited from this capacity building training were identified by the project managers, in close cooperation with the Provincial Education Directorate. The 10 Dewan and Safed Ghaow teachers, both male and female, spent two months (January and February) in Waras, improving their academic knowledge and pedagogical skills. 

Most teachers have received very basic and/or unrelated training in the subject they teach, therefore it is not surprising that they show significant gaps in their own subject. A general review can only be beneficial. Ms. Duria, the young teacher with a social science background concludes after 2 months training: “Now I am very proud and motivated to improve my knowledge and to continue my job as a mathematics teacher”.

Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development, that is why increasing the number of qualified teachers remains one of the priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals and of the ministry of education. Thanks to this program, more than 750 students from Dewan and Safed Ghaow schools will benefit from better learning conditions.

The unexpected effects of the early childhood education program

Early childhood education classes represent much more than the first steps in learning to read, write or calculate.

In 2017, Nai Qala opened 2 pre-school classes for children from 4 to 6 years old. The great success of the pilot program prompted the organization to expand the project to 7 other classes in 2018. The courses not only set up the ground for numeracy and literacy but provide opportunities to develop creativity, have fun, socialize and learn ethical values and social behavior. 

“A little birdie told me that” … or the impact of the Nai Qala preschool program in 9 villages in Ghazni province.

After only a few months of activity, changes in behavior and attitude can be observed in children attending the class, and their families. This blog offers you a small selection of concrete changes triggered by the early childhood education program, small changes that already impact the lives of the beneficiaries. These small stories are listed in no order of importance, as each single change has a different meaning and value. Each example is a real one but our privacy policy prevents us from jeopardizing the name of our sources and beneficiaries. Therefore a little birdie told me …

  • A little birdie told me that boys and girls have a lot of fun playing together. Playing activities set the ground for more gender equity.
  • A little birdie told me that the children are learning solidarity. Several children were seen comforting one of their classmates on the way to school and carrying the bag of another friend who had scratched his knee. Helping each other is one of the numerous ethical values taught in the early childhood education program.
  • A little birdie told me that moms are surprised to see that their children do less foolish things when they are at home. We also heard that some young boys behave much better with their mothers since they started attending early childhood education classes. Respect and tolerance are some core social skills children learn at school.
  • A little birdie told me that parents are happy to see that their children eat properly at home and finish their plates without complaining. 
  • A little birdie told me that the little boys who play with dinner sets at school are motivated to help with the cooking at home. Some older siblings are amazed to see their little brothers helping their mother to clear the table and wash the dishes. The program enables children to solve the basic problems they encounter every day.
  • A little birdie told me that the family and guests’ shoes laid in front of the entrance door no longer disappear but are now proudly lined up. 
  • A little birdie told me that the dads are convinced by the early childhood education program and are 100% committed. They bring wood to heat the classroom.
  • A little birdie told me that Legos and construction toys are very successful. It is a new type of toy for children in remote rural areas and an ideal way to develop their creativity and imagination. The imitation games (grocery, dinner, doctor’s sets) are also very popular among children. Children attending the class enjoy a friendly and pleasurable atmosphere where they can play safely and try new things.
  • A little birdie told me that children make the connection between what they learn in school about the environment and what they apply outside. The early childhood program aims at promoting children’s awareness about themselves, others, surrounding objects, society and nature.
  • A little birdie told me that the teachers are all surprised to see the progress of their young students on a day-to-day basis. Attending a pre-school class strengthens the abilities in listening, speaking, reading, writing and counting, in accordance with each child’s capacity.
  • A little birdie told me that parents have peace of mind when their children are in class and can devote themselves fully to their work during this time.
  • A little birdie told me that children do not fool around when they’re in class. They are as good as gold.
  • A little birdie told me that the school has created new friendships between children whose families no longer spoke to each other… and that, as a result, dialogue is resuming between adults.

Building policies to support a strong organization

The team in Kabul has been developing and refining a dozen policies over the past few months.

Policies are generally principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals. Policies, as well as their inherent procedures, are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions, and all activities that take place within the boundaries set by them. 

A policy as a guide for action 

Policies generally outline the rules, they provide principles that guide actions, set roles and responsibilities, reflect the values and beliefs, and state the intention of an organization to do something. Over the past months, Nai Qala employees have worked on a dozen policies that will support them in their everyday working life and that will guide their actions towards a sustainable organization. 

Nai Qala’s policies cover various areas such as harassment, ethical image, fundraising, gender, privacy, procurement, human resources, finance, social media, conflicts of interest, communication, etc. Working on the development of such policies has allowed employees to take full ownership and reinforce the team spirit. Above all, these new policies will make the administration easier and clearer, and allow Nai Qala’s staff to get on with the organization’s core activities more efficiently and effectively.

Enabling, promoting and demonstrating human rights

Nai Qala contributes to the improvement of human rights in Afghanistan

The capacity of the Afghan State to deliver critical services such as education and health care and to respect, protect and fulfill human rights is limited. The remote rural areas have been traditionally neglected by successive central governments in Kabul and today those remote communities particularly feel the absence of a strong state response. Basic infrastructure and institutions such as schools and health clinics are lacking, undermining the state’s ability to ensure good health and educational standards. Schools and clinics, where they exist, are difficult to access for most people. Staff of such institutions often have little training and low motivation. Few trained staff agree to work in remote regions where living conditions can be harsh. Not surprisingly, many people have left the country to try to make better lives elsewhere and this constant rural exodus makes the situation worse for those who remain as it weakens the social fabric of these communities.

Women and girls are still deprived of basic human rights, facing multiple restrictions and discriminations, abuses and various forms of violence, while efforts to raise the status of women face continued opposition. Women’s roles and their potential, as contributors to social and economic development, are still overlooked.

Right to education

Education is a human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every girl and every boy should have the right to a quality education so that they can have more chances in life, including employment opportunities, better health and also to participate in the political process. A basic education is also important to ensure that all individuals are aware of their rights.

In Afghanistan, 28% of school-age children are out of school and only 18% of girls 15 and older are literate. Our work on the root causes of low or no attendance of children, in particular girls, to school remedies the absence of decent learning conditions such as absence of a proper school building, the low qualification of teachers, absence of hygiene facilities (especially for menstruated girls), and the absence of a boundary wall, while preventing at the same time drop out through motivation talks with parents and the community, offering pre-primary classes, and reducing the distance to school in remote rural regions.

Right to health

As for education, health is also a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The human right to health means that everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which includes access to all medical services, sanitation, adequate food, decent housing, healthy working conditions, and a clean environment.

 While 91 out of 1000 children still die before their 5thbirthday in Afghanistan, we improve health conditions by providing a health center (clinic) that positively impacts women and infant health, improves the vaccination coverage and provides basic health care to a population of >20’000.

Nai Qala teachers have received training on basic hygiene measures; they pass the message on to their students and the youngsters participating in the early childhood education classes learn why and how to wash their hands. Several gardening initiatives are promoted to enhance nutritional status of the entire family.

Empowering people to realize their rights

While the main goal of our teachers is to teach the children, we also want to seize the opportunity to help communities understand the concept of human rights, or why it is important to question old ideas and encourage girls’ education. We want the teachers to discuss issues such as education, health and equality with village elders and others. It takes time for people to accept new ideas, but they have shown a surprising interest so far.

Gender equality, enshrined in article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stands at the core of Nai Qala’s activities. Nai Qala’s vision is “aneducated, healthy and balanced society in which women and men lead social, cultural and economic changes in an inclusive manner that enables their children – boys and girls – to thrive”. Our path to realise our vision is inclusive, patiently convincing elders, fathers, men. We aim at inducing small changes in the society by developing the capacities, opportunities and resources of local communities so that men, women, boys and girls can participate equally in family life and decisions and expand their fields of opportunities. We promote the participation of women in society as equals with men in decision making on issues that concern them, such as the education of their children, health of all family members and family economic income, as well as the inclusion of the full community in collective decision making such as construction, use and maintenance of local schools and clinics.

Human rights are interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. This means that the violation of the right to health may impede the enjoyment of other human rights, such as the right to education or the right to work, and vice versa. Without education, one is less likely to find well-paid jobs, decent housing, to participate in the democratic process or to recognize the value of education for future generations. According to the World Bank, there is evidence that educated citizens care more about the environment, are more tolerant of those who are different and are more inclined to fight for gender equality. Through education initiatives and actions targeting health, supported by an inclusive approach, Nai Qala strives to reduce inequalities and promote human rights.