A bright candle for others
Always the school topper, the selfless peace campaigner Nurullah Nawayee, who was my classmate in grade five, is an inspiration. A first person account by Samad Ali Nawazesh.
Nawayee was born in 1979 in a village called Jawdari in Jaghori district, Ghazni province, where he spent his childhood. From class 2 to 5 he was at the Fizia High school. Thereafter he went to the Abdul Ghafour Sultani school from where he finished high school. "I used to go to school by foot," he told me in an interview. Some days he would run all the way to school or hitch a lift in trucks, he remembers.
For sure Nawayee enjoyed studying. He not only got the highest marks in his class but he also topped the school. He would willingly help anyone who needed assistance with schoolwork. He held classes for children in the village
"I used to teach grammar, physics and other subjects voluntarily either in my house or the village mosque," he says. He started by using one of the rooms of his house as the classroom. "My students were some of the hardest working girls in the village," he says of a time when girls' education was banned by the then Taleban-government.
"I liked to study books that were not part of the school syllabi. These included social and philosophical discussions like the writings of Murtaza Motahari and Ali Shariatee."
Looking back with pride at his school record, he says he consistently scored very high marks – the highest he ever got – in the last three years of school.
When he finished school in 2001, the Taleban were in power in Afghanistan. Nawayee left the country like tens of thousands of educated youth. He settled in Quetta, Pakistan. He studied at the science institute in Quetta that was set up by Afghans through the support of an NGO called Shuhada (martyrs) to train teachers and specialists in medicine. He studied natural sciences for two years and also enrolled in English learning programmes.
He returned to Afghanistan after two years to teach English and Maths in Kabul for some months until the university entrance exam. He qualified with very high marks. His marks in the university entrance exam astonished the teacher in the faculty of social sciences, he says. He was asked if he still wanted admission with marks that could get him admission to any university course. "I insistently said yes," he told me.
In the end, however, he went to Egypt instead for higher studies. "I liked to study sociology but this field was part of the faculty of literature in Egypt and I found that the field of sociology is not taken so seriously in Cairo. After much thinking I changed myself to the field of Law in English language. This section was a bit organised and the number of students was also few. Most importantly half the lessons were in English. The lecturers that were teaching in Arabic were speaking in a manner that could be understood easily."
Nawayee studied law in Cairo University from 2005 to 2009. He was on a shoestring budget but he graduated successfully. "I lived in a dormitory; conditions of living were hard and deprivation was the experience of many foreign students like me. The Afghan government gave me money for a little over one year and then stopped. So I lived on the scanty money given by the government of Egypt, which would take back half what was given as food expenses in the hostel."
Nawayee says he drew on his reserves of patience and willpower to successfully complete his studies. He practiced his lessons on fellow students in the university. "I learnt more from teaching others. I would repeat the lessons to help others, and it also made me self reliant," he says. He graduated with 79.5 percent marks from Cairo University. "I did well," he recalls.
Nawayee considers helping others one of his goals in life. To attain his goal he has worked as a teacher, guide and trainer.
Return to Kabul
When he returned from Egypt he took big steps as a trainer of peace and conflict management among university students. In 2010, he joined the National Centre for Policy Research in Kabul University, and held numerous training workshops in "peace training and conflict management/solution" for female and male students. "Thousands of students have attended the programmes," he says. He has published research papers on the issue, translated three books, lectured and worked as a coordinator on the centre's programmes. He was also acting head of the department of peace studies and conflict management.
"I am interested in learning and teaching and that is what gives me happiness. I love to play a role in establishing educational and research organisations, and have been busy with these activities for many years. I hope I can continue to work with the same energy."
Nawayee married Fawzia Yawari four years ago, and they have a one and a half year old daughter. He has traveled to neighbouring countries like Pakistan and India, and also to Norway.