Tag Archives: education

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.” 

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.

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.

A new school for Sokhtagi

Quality education, improved learning conditions and increased enrolment: objectives largely achieved for the Sokhtagi project.

 Inauguration

On August 27, 2018, hundreds of schoolchildren and villagers from Sokhtagi gathered under a burning sun to unveil the new school together. This event was not only a moment of celebration, but above all an opportunity for Nai Qala to hand over the project to the community, elders, schoolchildren and their parents, as well as to local and provincial authorities. Many officials, including the Governor and the Provincial Minister of Education, honoured Nai Qala’s invitation. Nai Qala organized the ceremony and delegated part of it to a local committee composed of schoolgirls and community representatives.

The ceremony was very well balanced, mixing official parts with speeches and recreational moments: a musician playing dambura, or songs and poems specially created for the event and presented by some students. A small delegation of schoolgirls from Zeera Gag, a village where Nai Qala built a school in 2015, even traveled for more than 5 hours to bring a message of encouragement to their peers in Sokhtagi.

The project

But let’s take a small step backwards: the first stone was laid on 6 September 2017 in the presence of schoolgirls, the teaching staff, villagers and local authorities. The main objective of the project was to provide quality education, improve learning conditions and increase enrolment for girls and boys by building a fully equipped school building for 530 schoolchildren.

As soon as the project agreement was signed, people were eager to see the construction of the school begin. Consultation and coordination with the community were priorities for Nai Qala before and during construction – and even today when the school is already welcoming its students. The choice of site, then the quality of construction materials and the importance of maintenance were regularly discussed with the elders in the community. In order to reassure the provincial authorities and Nai Qala of the safety and maintenance of the school building after completion of the work, community members enthusiastically came forward to contribute, according to their abilities, not only to the construction, but also to future maintenance. As part of the agreement with the construction company, an unskilled construction labor force was hired locally to supplement the contingent of skilled workers recruited from other regions.

Given the enthusiasm of the community and Nai Qala’s commitment to high quality work, the provincial government has included the Sokhtagi School building in its development plan and has taken charge of the registration process. School management and building maintenance have been coordinated with local and provincial authorities.

The project was implemented according to schedule and specifications and was completed almost a year to the day after the work began. The result is a 16-room school building, including 9 classrooms for 530 students, laboratory and computer rooms, a library, two administration rooms and two storage rooms. The project has achieved all the objectives stipulated in the initial proposal and Nai Qala is very proud to provide a dignified school environment for schoolchildren in the Sokhtagi community.

The future

Following the inauguration of the school, a joint team of Nai Qala staff, community members, the provincial Ministry of Education and volunteers from the Rotary Club of Kabul reviewed the construction and confirmed that it was completed on time and that the project achieved all its objectives. Team members spoke with the beneficiary community, parents of school-age children and provincial authorities about the outcome of the project. The interlocutors expressed their full satisfaction and joy, and committed to take all necessary measures to maintain the school building in the best possible conditions. “Even before the school was handed over, we talked about it as if it were our own. Now it’s really ours. The entire province will be watching us. We need to show them that we can maintain our school and all its equipment – and we can do so because we are all working together today. This is just a start for us“, said one community leader.

In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, Nai Qala consulted all stakeholders to obtain their agreement. In response, the central government included the school in its national education development plan and made a written commitment to manage the school in accordance with the national curriculum, educational standards and teaching materials. The government will follow up with the community to ensure that the building is well maintained and will provide a small amount of financial assistance for repairs in the event of damage caused by snow or wind.

The community has set up a school protection committee to supervise the project and take care of maintenance in case of damage. It has also committed to hiring additional teachers in case the government does not allocate enough.

The local community and project beneficiaries (students and parents), representatives of the National Ministry of Education, the Director of the Provincial Ministry of Education and the President of the Provincial Council all welcomed the construction and full equipment of the Sokhtagi school. Nai Qala learned that the construction of the school with all its facilities, including computers for training, in this remote part of the country was a dream come true thanks to the association and its donors.

The Ministry of Education and the Provincial Ministry of Education thanked Nai Qala for implementing part of his development plan, which required a significant amount of money and technical effort. The authorities have promised to take care of the maintenance and management of the school, including the assignment of teachers.

The impact

Many tangible indicators attest to the success of the project. The initial number of schoolchildren enrolled has increased significantly as parents are now reassured of their children’s safety. In addition, many girls who had left school because they had to walk long distances to receive education in a poor quality environment resumed their studies by either joining directly the school class or a community education course in order to join the regular classes at the Sokhtagi school. After only a few weeks of operation, we can already see a significant decrease in the absenteeism rate. “We are no longer distracted by noise“, “We have the same learning conditions as in Kabul or Bamiyan“, “We never imagined that such a construction could exist” are messages that can now often be heard in Sokhtagi.

The villagers decided to allow the boys, who had to walk long distances to school in other areas, to join the girls at the Sokhtagi school where mixed classes will be created.

The arrival of a school building also has an impact on the length of the school year: due to heavy rains or snow, classes simply did not take place, shortening by a significant amount of time the coverage of the school curriculum. Teachers could not follow the annual program because classes were held outdoors and were impossible during heavy rains or snowfalls. The project will therefore allow teachers and students to complete the school program in indoor classrooms without having to deal with extreme weather conditions.

The main objective of this project was to provide quality education, improve the learning environment and increase enrolment opportunities for girls and boys by building a fully equipped school building. In view of the above, the project has already achieved all its objectives.

Thanks to Nai Qala’s projects, people in remote and excluded areas of central Afghanistan are able to build a better future for themselves. However, the greatest impact will be felt in the coming years. The people of Sokhtagi are proud of their school. They have contributed to this and the process has helped them build their confidence. Now it is up to them and their children to make good use of it.

Training of early childhood educators

In Afghanistan, pre-primary teacher training is provided by NGOs

Although pre-primary education in Afghanistan is part of the national education plan, there is still no formal training for teachers and government support for early childhood education remains rather limited. As a result, non-governmental organizations take over the training of hundreds of teachers each year and/or set up pre-primary education programs.

Among the NGOs active in the field, the Aga Khan Foundation has several years’ experience in early childhood development in Afghanistan and other parts of the world; it also supports the government of Afghanistan to develop early childhood development policy, preschool curriculum and textbooks. Through its global network, it has established its own early childhood development methods and trains hundreds of teachers every year. When Nai Qala’s early childhood education project was launched in 2017, the Aga Khan Foundation had provided training for two of the future female educators.

In the spring of 2018, Nai Qala extended its project to 7 new classes and recruited about 10 new teachers. The training of young women was entrusted to an “old” member of the project, Zewar, who organized a training seminar based on the pedagogical concepts acquired during her own training, and enriched by her experience. The teaching method for kindergarten classes is child-centered, uses group work and makes extensive use of flash cards: the small cards that every student has used at least once in his or her life when revising… For the youngest, a word is written on one side and represented by a drawing on the other. Zewar also follows up with new teachers once a week in their respective classes and invites them to observe the progress of her class from time to time. Teachers are aware that children’s interests and abilities vary considerably at the preschool level and that, as a result, individual and group activities are planned to meet children’s needs and promote the development of cognitive, language, social, emotional and physical skills. In preschool classes, opportunities for children’s creative exploration are balanced with teacher guidance during more structured teaching and learning activities.

In order to complete the pedagogical training of pre-school teachers, Nai Qala has also organized a first aid course for some educators, in partnership with the non-governmental organization JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service), in order for them to acquire the right reflexes, especially when caring for young children. Four young ladies went to Kabul to learn how to stop a hemorrhage, treat a burn, put on a splint or bandage. This course, designed and taught by a retired Swiss nurse, was very much appreciated and the young women who participated were given the task of transmitting the newly acquired knowledge not only to their colleagues who stayed at home, but also to the parents of their young students.

The Afghan National Strategic Education Plan 2017-2021 foresees a new specialized diploma in early childhood development and primary education; unfortunately, due to lack of resources, the curriculum is not yet in place today. However, such an objective is the recognition of the role that teachers with specialized teaching and development skills, and good understanding can have a positive impact on the dropout rate and ensure solid learning for children in the lower primary cycle. Until a formal teacher training program is in place, NGOs play an important role in transmitting pedagogical concepts and addressing cross-cutting issues such as health, the environment and gender equality.

teacher training workshop / séminaire de formation
teacher training workshop / séminaire de formation
teacher training workshop / séminaire de formation
First aid course / cours de premiers secours
First aid course / cours de premiers secours
First aid course / cours de premiers secours

Waste collection

 

A change in behavior and the public’s participation are key factors for functional waste management.

Waste is increasing

Humanity has created 8.3 billion tons of plastics since large-scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or in the natural environment[1]. Globally, some 3.5 billion people lack access to formal waste management services and the population from remote areas in Afghanistan is no exception.

Global plastic pollution numbers are mind boggling: 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, one million plastic bottles bought every minute; most plastics do not biodegrade, so the plastic waste humans have generated could remain for a hundred or several hundreds of years. More and more plastic waste is found in the Afghan landscape, even in such places that deserve or already have the status of a national park. It is said that a dip in the lakes of Band-e-Amir, the first Afghan national park, will cure you from diseases, however the rubbish and waste that seems to end up in the lakes would suggest otherwise.

Community based initiative in Sokhtagi

Shocked by the amount of garbage littering the lakes, marshes and rivers of the region of Sokhtagi, Nai Qala’s president shared her sad feelings with the local community during her stay in the area, in March 2018. Her words resonated positively with the population and encouraged them to take action. At the end of June 2018, the school council of Sokhtagi organized a general waste collection day where more than 350 people participated. Parents, schoolteachers and students gathered several dozens of kilos of plastic, glass, metal and fabric from Sokhtagi marsh and its surroundings.

Such motivation among the community of Sokhtagi, in a historically isolated region, is remarkable. Among many other benefits, is the building of a school that makes villagers more aware of their environment. “We have one of the most beautiful lakes on our doorstep, we must take care of it and, who knows, one day our village might become an area that will attract many outsiders to visit” said a gentleman who was among the cleaning volunteers.

Becoming aware of the environment and the generated waste 

Nai Qala promotes sustainability values and engages the community to be mindful of their environment and take care of nature. Nai Qala encourages the community of all the villages where it builds schools and health centers, and ensures the environment is discussed with the beneficiaries of its programs.

At a time when the World Bank estimates that global solid waste generation is on pace to increase by 70 percent by 2025, with developing countries facing the greatest challenges, such community based initiatives give a strong signal of hope. Not only a waste collection day, but also a critical thinking about the materials populations use as well as good waste management practices will help keep those remote regions of central Afghanistan clean. Let’s hope that waste reduction, waste collection, being thoughtful about what one buys and choosing a sustainable option whenever possible will become part of the local culture.

[1]Roland Geyer et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, July 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782

Back-to-school season for 180 youngsters

While most children in the northern hemisphere are in the middle of their summer holidays, 180 young children aged 4 to 6 have started their first school year this July.

Preparation of equipment

Nai Qala’s president, Taiba Rahim, and the Kabul team have been very busy these past few weeks. Several hundred kilos of material were collected in Kabul to equip the classes.

Chairs, shelves, toy boxes, white boards but also carpets, all multiplied by 7, were sent to 7 villages in the mountainous regions of Ghazni (close to the schools of Sada, Ghow Murda and Nai Qala) .

In addition to furniture, large amounts of school supplies were also purchased and transported; these are, among others:

  • dozens of kilos of wooden blocks made especially by local carpenters;
  • various toys, construction games, toy cars, dinner play sets, balls and much more;
  • paper, cardboard, colored pencils, paint;
  • basic hygienic material such as soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Nai Qala’s team, represented by Mr. Qeyam and Mr. Ali Reza were involved at 200% in setting up the classrooms, not only in Kabul where they carefully organized all the logistics and where they ensured that the purchased equipment was properly packaged to withstand the surprises of transportation, sometimes on very bumpy roads, but also in the field. Mr. Qeyam spent a full month in the villages to make sure that all the material had arrived and was properly distributed, and that each class was correctly set up. Each village is separated by a distance of 20 minutes to 1 hour by car; to connect the first to the last village, it takes 4 hours.

Accelerated training for teachers

After a recruitment process to which 55 candidates applied, the Kabul team selected 9 young women. These are girls graduated from the first 3 schools built by Nai Qala, often single or sometimes already married, and who have a university (or other) degree. As employment opportunities in these remote areas are minimal, the creation of early childhood education classes opens up new opportunities for work.

Ms. Zewar, one of the two teachers of the early childhood education classes opened in 2017, took the responsibility to organize a 3-day workshop and give some new pedagogical bases to the new recruits. Ms. Zewar herself benefited from a one-week workshop, followed by another on the job, before teaching the little ones. For young women, the workshop was the first experience of its kind.

In addition to the 3-day workshop, Ms. Zewar will coach, on a day to day basis, the new teachers in their respective classes. She will travel to each village, accompanied by an experienced driver, to encourage, guide and support each of the teachers in their new experience.

During the training workshop, the young women discovered some teaching materials but were also able to familiarize themselves with games and various toys. This training was also an opportunity to experiment for the first time toys, which they had not access to when they were young. A moving discovery!

Involvement of the local community

The involvement of the local community is essential to the project. Each community has made available the best room in the village to create appropriate learning conditions. In some cases, if the rugs brought by Nai Qala did not cover all the floors, the villagers provided the carpet to cover the missing parts. The community is very committed to installing the equipment, participating in its unloading and unpacking.

Each village eagerly awaited the arrival of Mr. Qeyam; the whole community of men, women and children gathered together, ready to help with the transportation of equipment, place the information sign at the roadside or arrange the classroom.

What is not visible

Setting up a project of this magnitude requires months of preparation. This represents indeed many visits to the central and provincial ministries, and hours of negotiations with the villagers that were necessary to ensure the sustainability of the project. An agreement has been signed with the government to ensure monitoring beyond the first 3 years of the project; agreements with each local community have been concluded to ensure the availability of the premises where the courses will be held.

Each organization operating in the field of education must involve the Ministry of Education since it is the gatekeeper of the national education plan. As a result, the government will monitor the progress of the project and make constructive suggestions. The Ministry of Education, through its provincial-level leadership, has committed to follow-up to ensure that the project works properly and is community based, and will manage the early childhood education classes in terms of human resources, after 2020.

Back to school

In total, 180 children participated in starting their first school year. The Nai Qala Early Childhood Education project concerns 9 classes in 9 villages: 7 new classes added to the 2 classes already initiated at the start of summer 2017.

The little ones, between 4 and 6 years old, will not only learn to read and write but also expand their imagination and develop through play and artistic activities. The early childhood education class is also an opportunity for these young children to socialize and learn some good manners and basic hygiene.

After a few days of classes, the feedback is already very positive. Parents say they have no problem waking their children early in the morning, which was not necessarily the case before the start of the school year. The inhabitants of the 9 villages are very happy and make sure that the program is going well. The teachers are super motivated and the joy is shown on the faces of the children.

To learn more about Nai Qala and early childhood education, it’s here.

Delivery of material / Livraison du matériel
Workshop for teacher / Atelier pour les enseignantes
1st school day / 1er jour d'école

Girls’ education, a change of mindset

Promoting girls’ education and cultural changes through a capacity building program

Improving the quality of education provided in the schools Nai Qala has built. 

Overall, the quality of education in Afghanistan in particular in the rural areas is very low. To remedy this, the Nai Qala Association is not only providing school buildings in those isolated regions but also several tutoring classes in sciences, and preparation courses to the national test for university entrance. Without such classes, many girls would not have taken the exam, as parents do not have the means and motivation to send them to towns to get private lessons.

The role of Nai Qala’s teacher training in capacity building is much more than transferring scientific knowledge.
Inspired by her experience with western school systems that promote regular communication between teachers and parents, Nai Qala’s president motivated the teacher-trainers to establish such a culture. Trainers meet parents to encourage them to be supportive at home with their children. In remote rural regions, many parents are illiterate and cannot help children with their homework but can support them by giving them space and believing in them.

The trainers are very aware of the importance of the role of parents in children’s education and have realized that such support was missing in their time at school. Nai Qala’s teacher-trainers even go to visit parents of those students who do not participate during class; they walk for a few hours to find an almost isolated house, in the mountains, with a tiny piece of land and a few heads of cattle. When parents first see the teachers they are a bit afraid, wondering what they want from them and why they are coming to their house. However when the teachers introduce themselves and explain that it is part of their role to meet the parents, not only because their child comes to the capacity building class but also to congratulate the parents for sending them to the course, many parents cannot believe what they hear and get emotional. Amazingly, the teachers very often see a different attitude in their student in the next days. This girl or boy comes earlier to school and interacts more, now being aware that their teachers give them importance.

Teachers take initiatives to triggers girls involvement at school.
Teachers discuss among themselves the participation and involvement of students in the class. They, for example, decided to split into different classes two sisters who were too passive during the courses and encouraged the other girls in the classes to support the sisters. The girls cried and suffered a lot from the separation for a few days but then became the most talented students in the school after a few months.

A change in the mindset of teachers on girls’ education.
Nai Qala’s teacher-trainers themselves come from remote rural regions of central Afghanistan, originating from poor and traditional communities. “When I was in school, I studied in a mixed class, with girls. I always had one point in my mind: why should girls come to school? They are not made for school, what for?” remembered Jawad, a 26 year old, Nai Qala teacher-trainer. The job description of the teacher-trainers puts a special emphasis on girls’ education. Teachers have not only received training on human and women’s right but have also been coached by Nai Qala staff on how to encourage girls and their parents. Jawad recounted how once he saw a girl answering a very complex math problem in front of the class, his perception about girls was changed forever: “She started to write and competently solved the problem. In that minute, I went deep in thought and questioned myself: why was I so negative about girls? Is it the society that influenced me? Many questions came to my mind and on that night I could not sleep well… After that day, I became so determined that I must help girls. This is now my third year that I teach girls and help them in scientific subjects, together with my colleagues. Up to now, I have been helping about 1000 girls between the ages of 12 to 18. I never imagined I’d be able to do my job with such motivation. It is never too late to realize that girls have the same talents and deserve the same rights as boys. I am grateful to Nai Qala for helping me to realize this important point”.

With Nai Qala’s support, hundreds of girls are on their way to university. In one of the least developed rural regions of Afghanistan, this represents an extraordinary change and brings hope. The capacity building program is a tremendous platform that allows gradual cultural changes to be brought to the remote regions and promote girls’ education.

Thanks to Nai-Qala, girls can benefit from capacity-building course during the winter

For the duration of the winter capacity building course, some girls are living in host families’homes. 

In mid-December, Nai Qala teacher-trainers travelled to the village of Zeera Gag, where the Nai Qala Association built a school in 2015, to launch a new course of capacity building.

Nai Qala had already run this program in the village of Zeera Gag last winter, during the school holidays. It was meant for over 200 girls. But gradually the numbers of girls reduced every week; indeed,  many girls were living in the remote villages where there are high risks of snow avalanche and tough weather condition. All the girls who could not attend the course were very sad.

This summer, many determined parents who shared their daughters’ disappointment, approached families who live near the school of Zeera Gag. Many families agreed to have a girl live with them for a period of 3 months, the duration of the capacity building course. In return, these parents have agreed to give host families some wheat or cheese.

Just in the last few weeks before the start of the course, over 10 girls between age 16 and 18 were already living in their new houses, impatiently waiting for the Nai Qala teachers to arrive, and to benefit from the course.

For this year, the course is planned for 160 girls.

To know more on the capacity building project, click here.