After five years of trauma, Naqibullah is finally looking toward the future

Youth Skills in South Asia

UNICEF Afghanistan
Naqibullah, an adolescent boy, looks at the camera with determination. He is wearing a black pakol, light red shirt and grey-brown sports jacket. A beige wall is in the background.
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019
27 September 2019

Kandahar, Afghanistan – At the age of 12, Naqibullah lost his brother, his father and his childhood.

“Whenever I hear gunfire – even during weddings – I get agitated and scared,” 17-year-old Naqibullah said. “It reminds me of the many nights where we had to hide in our house, running from one room to another to survive.”

Naqibullah is one of the countless children in Afghanistan who have paid a high price for the country’s ongoing conflict. After Naqibullah’s step-brother was killed, Naqibullah’s father died of a heart attack. The family was in shock. They didn’t know what else to do, so they fled their homes to start over.

Naqibullah, his mother and his eight siblings settled in the Afghan city of Kandahar. All the children were forced to drop out of school to work – or, in the case of his sisters, to marry.

“I wish I had the opportunity to continue my education,” Naqibullah said. “But I had to work at a tailor’s shop. The owner mistreated me and underpaid me, even pushing me to drop out of school so I could work all day.”

Eventually, Naqibullah got another job at a school, where he cooked, cleaned and served drinks to staff. Today, he earns the equivalent of $65 per month, most of which he gives to his mother to support his family.

“I don’t like the job, but I need the money,” Naqibullah said. “I regretted that I left school and wanted to go back.”

Naqibullah, leans over while he sweeps a pattern floor in what could be a classroom. Off-white walls and doors are in the background.
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019
Naqibullah is working as a janitor at the education directorate in Kandahar province. He cooks, cleans and serves hot drinks to staff.

Stabilisation through education

Eventually, Naqibullah saved enough to enrol in an evening programme for previously out-of-school children. Every day, he wakes up early to work until 3:30 in the afternoon, squeezing in just enough time to finish his coursework before attending classes at night.

The programme helped spark a love of reading for Naqibullah. It also gives him a chance to engage with his peers. Slowly, Naqibullah is reclaiming his right to an education – along with his right to play, rest and relax. On Fridays, for example, Naqibullah plays cricket with his friends. After years of trauma, Naqibullah is finally starting to look toward the future. 

Naqibullah, is working from a notebook on a desk with a computer. An older man in a light blue shirt is helping him.
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019
Mahboub Al Haq, 26, is helping Naqibullah with a multiplication problem. Mahboub Al Haq is the data manager at the education centre where Naqibullah studies.

“My one and only dream is to become a teacher and serve my nation.”

— Naqibullah