Education

Mobile libraries return to Kabul, delighting children

By Salaam Times and AFP

A mobile library bus chugs to a Kabul orphanage and opens its doors for the first time since the fall of Afghan government, eliciting beaming smiles from children. [Luana Sarmini-Buonaccorsi/AFPTV/AFP]

KABUL -- A mobile library bus chugged to a Kabul orphanage Sunday (December 5) and opened its doors for the first time since the fall of the Afghan government in August, eliciting beaming smiles from children.

"I'm really feeling happy. I'm studying the books I love again," said 11-year-old Arezo Azizi, whose favourite tome is a counting aid about a cat who gets more pieces of cheese the higher it can count.

The library "didn't come for three months, until now", she said, sitting on a converted public bus and her voice rising above the excited chatter of her peers.

The mobile library is one of five buses leased by a local organisation called Charmaghz, established by Freshta Karim, an Afghan graduate of Oxford University.

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Children read their books inside a mobile library in Kabul on December 5. [Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

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Children stand inside a mobile library in Kabul on December 5. [Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

Hundreds of children have in recent years made use of the mobile libraries daily as they crisscrossed Kabul, as many schools lack their own library.

But "we lost almost all of our sponsors" in-mid August, said Ahmad Fahim Barakati, deputy head of the non-profit initiative.

The education ministry granted permission for the mobile libraries to restart their activity several weeks ago. But it was only a few days ago that agreement was reached with the transport ministry, which owns the buses, Barakati explained.

Delighted to be back

Like the children, librarian Ramzia Abdikhil, 22, is visibly happy that the show is back on the road.

"It's a lovely feeling. Currently, the schools are also closed," she said.

Girls' education has been hit particularly hard by the fall of the previous Afghan government, as the new government has barred millions of girls across the country from continuing school after sixth grade.

"We have street kids, and I love to serve them because they do not have the opportunity to go to school, and this is a way that I can serve them," Abdikhil said.

"We have Islamic books; we have English and Dari storybooks ... we have painting books, different game books."

Charmaghz has enough funds at present to keep the mobile libraries on the road for a month or so, Barakati said.

The organisation is raising funds through online platforms and globally, and he hopes to have enough donors to keep going beyond then, he added.

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