Afghanistan: Mobile Libraries

Afghanistan: Kabul, Heart, Mazar e Sharif and Paktya Provinces

Years of war, civil war and periods of flooding and draught have taken their toll on the children of Afghanistan. Many areas in Afghanistan have particularly high levels of unemployment with a significant part of the population illiterate and living in informal settlements and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. The children and young people are sent to work to support their families and are unable to attend school. Many engage in criminal activity and are kept in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres, where there are, in fact, no resources for “rehabilitation” and no reading or writing facilities. 

Since 2013, ASHIANA and IBBY Afghanistan have received funding from the Sharjah/IBBY Fund for Children in Crisis to create long-term reading programmes for children in conflict and post-conflict situations in the Kabul, Heart and Mazar e Sharif provinces. In 2013 mobile libraries were created for the informal schools run by ASCHIANA. The project created libraries with books, other reading materials and story videos as well as provided training for reading assistants, library assistants and storytellers. Because many or all of the parents are illiterate the mobile libraries travelled with the teams of assistants to help the children read. 

Ten camps near Kabul and five camps and two outreach centres in Herat were identified. Project staff were trained in storytelling and how to motivate the children to read and to attend school. A six-month pilot project was begun in Mazar-i-Sharif to provide a mobile library covering 10 IDP camps reaching about 1000 children. Reading assistants, library assistants and storytellers were trained to use art and media stories to help children read and to encourage their interest in reading.

Based on the success of the earlier projects, funding was continued in 2014 and in 2015 was extended to Paktya. The staff provided training for 4 library assistants, 8 reading assistants (2 per province) and 4 storytellers (1 per province) with one overall project coordinator. The project was implemented at juvenile rehabilitation centres, IDP camps, kindergartens, schools and orphanages and at ASCHIANA centres in each region, involving overall over 8,700 children (over 4,500 boys and over 4,200 girls).

As in the first projects, the project brought the pleasure of reading and storytelling to these children. There was emphasis on active listening and active speaking, encouragement for children to tell and if possible, write, their own stories. Importantly it raised an awareness of the value of education in the children, their parents and community leaders. A good working relationship has developed between ASHIANA and the government departments and the Ministry of Education has made several requests to AFBBY for assistance in organizing existing libraries or establishing new libraries in school.

ASCHIANA and IBBY Afghanistan received further funding in 2016. The focus of efforts in 2016 was on putting mobile libraries in the form of book cupboards in different locations in Kabul province. As in other projects, youth groups will be trained to stock the books cupboards and organize reading and storytelling programmes for the children. ASCHIANA has purchased bicycles to allow the young people to go to different locations with a small box of books and work with children. The project will also keep one permanent car equipped with mobile library and a DVD player for educational films. See Project Update 2016 and Project Report 2015-2017 as well as Photos 2017. 

The IBBY Children in Crisis Fund provided further support for projects in Afghanistan in 2017. Additional funding was supplied by the IBBY Yamada Fund in  2017 and 2019.