Children in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, more accustomed to terrorist violence and bomb blasts, have now something to cheer about. It’s a blue bus. The moment they see it coming they shout excitedly and board it. The bus is nothing but a mobile library that provides reading material to children in the city. Surprisingly, it’s the first such library in the country.
This is made possible by the initiative of 26-year-old Fresta Karim, who herself was born and brought up in a refugee camp in Afghanistan. However, her determination saw her cross all hurdles that the biased Islamist hardliners have against girl education. Not only did she manage to get educated herself but attended the prestigious Oxford University on scholarship.
Karim could have landed a nice job outside her country but chose to return to do something about the dismal state of education in her country. Says she, “There are more than 50 percent children in Afghanistan who are deprived of schooling. If you talk about girls, the figure rises to a whopping 85 percent. The country’s literacy rate is a miserable 26 percent.”
She continues, “To bring a positive change in this dreary education scene,I, along with a few like-minded youths,established Charmagaz Society. Like thousands of other children, my team members too were deprived of basic education. But, after I graduated, I returned and started the bus library. I hope this will help the children progress.”
Since safety and security of children remains paramount in terrorist-infested country, the bus library avoids crowded built up areas and, instead,goes to schools, parks and orphanages, where it’s easier to find children. The bus also visits areas where terrorist threats prevent parents from sending their children out.
At present, the society has two buses and each bus is staffed by three persons and houses 600 books, all donated by publishers, who have volunteered to educate children. This library is different for conventional libraries, since children are not stopped from speaking or playing. Little wonder the bus library witnesses a footfall of around 700 children daily.
Karim says, “I don’t claim that this initiative will solve the education problems of the country. My initiative is one among thousands of such initiatives that I hope it succeeds. And this is only the beginning.”