Tag Archives: education

Learning to play with toys

Playing with toys is a new experience for preschool teachers from remote communities.

Nai Qala’s preschool program is designed to provide young children with a range of experiences that help them develop skills and attitudes that will enable them to make good use of lifelong learning opportunities, which is why play is an important component of the curriculum. However, playing with toys is not part of the culture and is not always understood in isolated communities.

Teachers felt uncomfortable playing with toys.

Women teachers from the Yakawlang district who have been teaching a preschool class for a year participated in a three-day refresher course organized by Nai Qala association; it was an opportunity to exchange experiences and deepen their knowledge about early childhood and education. For the Nai Qala team, such a workshop is also an opportunity to gather feedback from teachers on the past school year and to get ideas to improve the training of future teachers. 

A big lesson learned from the three days is that play and toys can represent abstract concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp. We took it for granted that playing with construction toys develops the imagination and allows children to inspire each other, but this was not the case for teachers who never had the opportunity to play with “western” toys in their own childhood. Indeed, construction toys bewildered many teachers who felt lost and confused, so in some kindergarten classes, Lego bricks and wooden blocks were left out.

Experimenting to understand the role of toys

A few days later, Nai Qala trained 33 young women in preschool education. After learning about the theory of the role of play in children’s development, the future teachers were given the opportunity to experiment with some construction toys and to play by themselves. It was very touching to see these young women playing with bricks and blocks. At first puzzled and wondering about the meaning and use of the different shapes, they used their imagination, became enthusiastic and let their creativity express itself to such an extent that the trainers lost a bit of control of the class. 

Very proud of their own achievements, the trainees understood the importance of using these toys for children. Fun, excitement, joy, concentration, initiative, coordination, curiosity, creativity, inspiration, collaboration, perseverance are all words inspired by their play time. 

School closure in times of pandemic

Most children have received no schooling for at least 9 months.

On their last day of school before the winter holidays in November 2019, no Afghan child could have imagined that schools would not resume the following spring. That’s why, in March, when the country’s health and education ministries announced the closure of all schools, children understood that the current winter holiday would be extended indefinitely to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.

The Ministry of Education quickly put in place an emergency response plan for the Covid-19 pandemic to continue the delivery of education services to students in their homes. This plan focused on distance education using television, radio or the web, and on small group teaching for students.

COVID-19 severely affected an already fragile culture of education in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas

Schools in Afghanistan were in crisis before the pandemic, but the situation has worsened, even more so in rural areas. With 55% of the population living below the poverty line, many families simply cannot afford to have access to the internet. Only 14% of Afghans use the internet and there is a wide disparity between urban and rural areas.  In addition, the availability of electricity has a significant impact on the population’s access to television and radio. In the remote rural areas where Nai Qala operates, a very small part of the population has a television powered by solar batteries. During the closure of schools, it was not unusual to see teenagers walking for several hours once a week to an urban center with good internet access to follow the government’s education program. Some highly motivated children, supported by their parents, moved to relatives in the cities to continue their education. Unfortunately, this was only the case for a minority. Most of the children had no opportunities for education during the closure of the school.

In rural areas, where only 13% of women and 45% of men are literate, many parents simply cannot help their children to study. For many parents, the closure of schools was seen as an economic boon. Parents who do not fully understand the role of education were rather satisfied to have their children at home and make more use of their children’s free time to help boost the family’s income, by making carpets or doing embroidery. During this period, the schoolchildren supported their parents more in household chores, in the fields or in animal husbandry.

The reopening of schools is encouraging

At the end of August, the government authorized the reopening of classes for 11th and 12th grade students. This was a relief and a great joy for the older teenagers, especially for the girls from Anda, who for the first time were able to take advantage of the facilities of the new school that Nai Qala built for them in 2019. In an already fragile environment where access to education was already a challenge, the pandemic could make the situation even worse, but having a decent educational environment with well-equipped school buildings is certainly an incentive to bring more children to school and retain them there.

Since the beginning of October, children of all ages have started going back to school. The schools built by Nai Qala have returned to full capacity and, as  a former preschooler with Nai Qala who has just started school in Sokhtagi says: “I am happy to be at school“.

Opening up to the idea of pre-school education

Even those who are the most recalcitrant eventually end up supporting pre-school

Nai Qala Association started its pre-school program in the Nai Qala valley in 2017. The objective was to provide pre-school for all the children from the villages in the catchment area of the 3 schools that Nai Qala built there between 2007 and 2010.

Nai Qala’s employees were able to convince 9 villages to take part in the program, but there was one village that was not interested in pre-school. The villagers did not want to meet the Nai Qala team. They were not ready and did not understand the need for the program. When the local community refused to meet the team in 2017, of course it was extremely difficult to leave the village while knowing that many children were being left behind and missing out on such a program. This was a very sad moment… 

The Nai Qala pre-school program has been a success

Nai Qala Association successfully started its program in the other 9 villages and the parents and communities soon realized that this program was even better than they had imagined. Their children came home with many positive changes. They noticed how their children had improved social skills and had more of an awareness of their environment and their family; from greetings and politeness, to being able to identify basic reading and writing at a very young age. In addition, the children started to have more self-confidence and develop a sense of identity and pride that was hard to imagine before. Most importantly the community realized how the parents are involved in the education of their own children through parent-teacher meetings as an integral part of our pre-school program.

The community changed its mindset

It was not long before the recalcitrant village heard good things about the program and developed an understanding for what it was about. In particular they were convinced by the fact that parents were able to contribute by taking part in the parent-teacher meetings. The village started to regret their initial reluctance to open up to the idea of pre-school and felt left out. They observed and followed closely how the program was implemented elsewhere and then they held several meetings and organized classes themselves until eventually in the spring of 2019 they invited Nai Qala’s team members to the village and announced that they were now ready to set up a pre-school class. 

As part of our pre-school program, we hire a teacher directly from the community to teach the children, but in the case of this village it was difficult to find someone locally who was suitably qualified to be a teacher. We finally found a young lady who had only graduated from 8th grade but we decided to hire and train her, so she was capable of leading a class. 

Now in this village the parents are present at each parents’ evening and realize the importance of education. This story shows that the community itself once it was convinced by the program it welcomed it. This is the key to change! Any society will only develop when it  is itself convinced and ready. Then it will participate fully in the program which will be successfully sustained. Our pre-school program is community-based, and the active participation of the local community is crucial.

We are very proud to be part of such long-lasting change in those remote rural regions. It is thanks to the Nai Qala Association that that village and others like it opened up to the idea of education and its importance for their children’s future. 

A new school for better opportunities

Nai Qala Association’s 11th school will improve learning conditions for 300 children.

On November 23rd, 2019 the keys of the school of Anda were officially handed over to the school principal. The objective of Nai Qala’s project has been fully achieved namely, to hand over to the community a new and properly equipped school that promotes access to quality education and improves learning opportunities for over 300 school-age girls and boys. 

The new school in the village of Anda will provide teachers and students with adequate facilities and equipment that create a working and recreational environment conducive to study and personal development of each child. 

A direct impact on the curriculum

In the mountainous regions of central Afghanistan, open-air schools are obliged to close early and for long periods due to heavy snow or rainfall, thus compromising the completion of the annual school program. In Afghanistan, school usually starts in April and ends in November but for many schools that do not have proper buildings the program can only starts  in May or sometimes even in June. The same happens at the end of the year, if winter comes earlier than usual, these schools may shut as early as October, making it very hard for teachers and students to complete the yearly curriculum. The new school in Anda is ready to be used by children who have been studying in the rain, snow, hot sun or in the wind, sitting on often damp ground. The new Anda building, with its 6 classrooms, will ensure that the annual education plan can be respected regardless of the weather.

A new pole of attraction

A school building represents a gateway to new opportunities for the community in Anda. With a proper construction, the community can more confidently ask the government and NGOs for educational support. A building acts as proof that material can be carefully kept and maintained. NGOs and the government are thus encouraged to bring more books, stationery, science materials or equipment. Our experience from other schools has also taught us that a new school is not only motivating for the children but also for the teachers, who in the absence of a proper school have high absenteeism and a tendency to leave their jobs. A well-established school is thus a motivation for governmental and non-governmental organizations to include it in their development programs and ensure teacher training and support.

Unexpected side effects of the construction

The school in Anda brought together a very traditional and divided community that has never been able to benefit from a concrete development project. For a year, Nai Qala actively engaged with them, empowered and encouraged them. For the first time, the community of Anda worked together on a common goal where everyone could benefit before, during and after the construction work. At the time of the inauguration, the keys of the building were handed over to the school principal in the presence of the community who created a steering committee for the protection and maintenance of the building. 

The sustainability of the school depends on the involvement of all the stakeholders, the regional authorities, the community, parents, teachers and students. Anda school is now an integral part of the national education plan and will benefit, in the future, from management within the framework of the standards defined by the Ministry of Education. 

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.

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.” 

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.