Tag Archives: education

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.

Mothers love the early childhood program

Mothers are enthusiastic about the early childhood education program

Mothers whose sons and daughters attend the early childhood program are impressed by the progress of their children and are very grateful to the Nai Qala Association for providing such a class. Four of them shared their testimonials:

Setayesh (6 years old) and Elena’s (5 years old) mother: “My daughters learnt how to read and sing, greet people and to be polite. They learnt and then explained  the five senses to the family. I never thought about this … and found it very interesting. Every day when my children come home and share their new knowledge with me, it fills my heart with a happiness and joy that I have never felt before. My children are different from the other children. If Nai Qala Association were to experience financial difficulties one day, we would contribute to the class to help maintain such an important program for our children. We will do anything for our daughters!”. 

Saraj ‘s (4 years old) mother“My son is very careful about his clothes and tries to play in a safe environment. Before these classes, he used to play in the dust and in dirty places, but now it’s totally different. Playing in a clean place became part of his dignity and discipline. He greets and shows respect for everybody. Within just four months, he has become another boy. He learned things that I could never think of how to tell them to my child. Now I know how it’s done and how to talk with my child.  I am very grateful that Nai Qala provides us with such an important program. I hope the Nai Qala Association will continue such a program. If not, we will continue this program by ourselves”.

Marina’s (5 years old) mother“My daughter comes home,  shares and sings all the songs she learned in the class. It brings so much happiness to our home.  Marina behaves totally different at home, her way of talking, eating, listening, greeting… The notebook that has been given to her in the class, is a big motivation for her. She reads and write without stopping. When I see Marina, I regret we did not have such an opportunity when I was her age… I hope Marina learns well and will have a good future.  The songs of my daughter give me such an inspiration that I wish there should be such a class for mothers too”.

Razeya, mother of 2 young children: “I am very happy to come to the class where my 2 children go every day. I cannot believe it when I see my 4 years old girl and 3 years old boy read and write already at such  a young age. I am impressed to see them playing in such a positive and clean environment with other children. I see how they are learning, playing together and developing their personalities. Since my children attend this early childhood class, they are very different. They say hello to everybody, wash their hands regularly, especially before and after eating”. 

The impact of tutoring classes

The capacity building course creates new perspectives for students in remote villages and allows parents to make substantial savings.

Aqela, 12th grade in Nai Qala School shares her opinion on the capacity building course:

I was very stressed about how to strengthen my scientific subjects to get ready for the admission exam for university; will I be able to attend the exam? I asked my parents if they could support me to go to a bigger town to get some additional study. But my parents could not support me financially.

By spring, I heard that NQA is providing such a course in our village. It was hard to believe. I had the feeling that I am flying. Yet this truly happened. The course took place and since then my life has filled with hope and determination! I have tried to attend every single class this semester. The feeling of responsibility is rising inside me: I must take this chance and succeed. 

My dream is to work in the health sector to help my village and community. Health is one of the biggest problems and a huge challenge.”

In 2016, tutoring was provided in the village of Nai Qala to over 100 students in preparation for university entrance. The original goal was to tutor 46 girls and 34 boys, but more students became interested and benefitted from the project.

The training course has helped the community to save about USD 20’000 (which is the amount that would have been spent if all the children had been sent to a town for such a course, corresponding to USD 200 for each child).

A better standard of education means that more of our rural children, including girls, will have the chance to go to university.

In 2017, over 182 teenagers (120 girls and 62 boys) attended the tutoring class.

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

Be a source of inspiration

Former students from Nai Qala schools are now teacher trainers and a source of inspiration for current students

To start the teacher training project in 2016, we hired three university graduates with teaching skills. Remarkably, two of the teachers graduated from a Nai Qala school few years ago.

After completing their university studies, they are now prepared to work to serve their community. The fact that they attended a Nai Qala school was one criterion for selecting them: they return to serve their people, which in turn is a source of inspiration for other students in the village.

The project has also given some local people with qualifications an opportunity to stay in their region rather than seek work elsewhere. This can be an inspiration to other villagers.

Winter break for preschoolers

After 6 months of activity, both early childhood education classes are enjoying a well-deserved winter break. Temperatures in the region of Nai Qala are well below zero degrees and snow has appeared.During the past semester, children of Nai Qala have made remarkable progress. They have not only learned how to recognize and write the letters of the Dari (Farsi) alphabet, and to count until 50 but they have developed new social skills through playing and doing artistic activities.

Thanks to this pilot project, 36 girls and boys listened to stories, drew, painted, and developed their imagination. All together, they participated in games that boosted their self-confidence and stimulated the development of their personality.

The children of Nai Qala have enjoyed the new class of early childhood education. They have been encouraged, felt inspired, realized their dreams and can now apprehend the future more serenely.

Learning is fun

The early childhood education program stimulates boys and girls to play together

One of the most important objectives of early childhood education program is that from a very early age, all children – boys and girls – learn how to play together as a normal habit. Playing together develop their imagination  and allow them to inspire each other.

The early childhood education program is designed to provide an expanded range of experiences for young children helping them to develop skills and form attitudes that will enable them to make good use of learning opportunities both within the class and later formal education.

The little boy seems to think he could get some inspiration from the castle built by his young colleague …