Located in central Asia with Iran to the west and Pakistan to the east, Afghanistan is about the size of Texas. High mountains with treacherous peaks and dry deserts make up most of its landscape. Extreme weather means that the winters are very cold and the summers extremely hot.
Outside of the capital Kabul, it can take several days to get to some villages. In remote areas, basic infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals simply does not exist. It is against this backdrop that the children of Afghanistan try to get an education as best as they can.
“I quit school two years ago because the classroom had no roof. The condition of the school on the dusty ground under very hot sun, and also in the rain, became unbearable. So instead I helped my family by looking after the sheep and going to the mountain to collect firewood for cooking. It was very tough.” - Shirinne, aged 15
Hundreds of schools are officially registered by the state in Afghanistan but have no proper building to house them. Children study under the shelter of torn tents in the ruins of what once was a school, or even in the open, unprotected from the harsh sun, the rain and the wind. “In spite of these bad conditions, the children and their parents are strongly committed to education,” said Taiba Rahim, President of Nai Qala Association, which works to advance education and health in remote regions of Afghanistan. Nai Qala believes that improving access to education and health is crucial to the Afghan people’s future.
“As the regions we work in are very diffi cult to reach, it takes courage by all involved to believe that a school or clinic can actually be built in these regions,” said Taiba. “Transporting building materials is hugely challenging and the construction team and staff live for months under difficult conditions.” Nai Qala works with the communities to help them take ownership of the building projects. The men in the villages work to clear roads so that the trucks, motorbikes or horses and donkeys transporting the materials can access the villages.
In addition, both the men and women earn salaries to help in the construction of the school – the men for the building work and the women for preparing lunches and dinners for everyone involved. “This money helps lift the villagers out of poverty,” said Taiba. “With their joint salaries the families buy additional livestock which they can breed to sell. This helps them to work towards a sustainable, brighter economical future.”
“It is two months that I am working on the project to build the school,” said villager Hussain Ali. “In such a remote and isolated region it’s very challenging to have a decent income, but now I am earning money every day. I have managed to buy clothes for my children, and a year’s worth of food and grass for my sheep. I have never had such an income.”
Nai Qala was founded in 2007 and has successfully helped build six schools and one clinic in the Ghazni and Bamiyan provinces in central Afghanistan so far. Oak Foundation supported Nai Qala to construct several schools and one clinic, including a school called Zeera Gag in the district of Panjab, Bamyan in 2015. This new school has eight classrooms and will house more than 520 students and 14 teachers. Fully-equipped, it runs off its own electricity supply and has a library of books and study equipment to prepare students for university.
“The implementation of the project is progressing according to plan,” said Taiba. “Already its impact is being felt: the number of children registered for school next year has gone up, with 100 additional girls and boys registered.”
Fifteen-year old Shirinne, mentioned earlier in this article, is one of the students who dropped out of school two years ago due to poor conditions. “This year I heard that a lady came to our village and talked about the possibility of building a proper school for children,” she said. “My father told me this news and went with me to the school to register me. This makes me both happy and hopeful. My father says I must study to become someone who can help our people.”
Oak is delighted with this news and proud to be able to support the Nai Qala Association.
girls and boys registered for school in the village of Zeera Gag in Afghanistan when the construction of the school began.