KABUL (SW) – A rare new addition of bright blue buses with ‘Chahar Magz’ (walnut) written on face of it has grabbed attention of Kabul residents who are used to otherwise rusted old buses for commuting.
Unlike the usual noise and boring music played in other buses - disliked by the majority of this city's people – these buses have free books for the travelers - especially children - in a city filled with smoke and terrorized by crimes and violence.
Many travelers entertain themselves with these books until they reach their destination. The ‘Chahar Magz’ is a mobile library that circulates around the city every day, bringing books to streets, from one school to another, and one neighborhood to the other much to the delight of children.
The children line up enthusiastically for boarding these buses, and take a moment out to enter and find the books of their choice and taste.
Fareshta Karim is in charge of this innovative idea. In a conversation with Salam Watander, she said the goal behind ‘Chahar Magz’ is to nurture love for books and promote critical thinking among children and students. After immigrating to England and returning to the country, Fareshta came up with this idea. She said the idea of building a library for children has long been in her thoughts, and eventually, after completing her master's degree at Oxford University and returning to the country, she turned it into reality.
Two years ago, Fareshta launched the mobile library with three buses in western parts of Kabul, one of which was an educational cinema for children. According to her, these buses visited different schools for a while allowing children to experience it for close to an hour.
She added that the books have been arranged in a way to grab attention of the children in line with their level. Besides that, Fareshta and her colleagues also read stories to children, and make it worthwhile for children who are new to reading and sometimes have trouble reading and writing.
Fareshta Karim, sitting firmly with the children like an angel (the literal meaning of her name), she said that in the coming year, many new books have been ordered for the children. “
Praising her efforts, Zabih Mehdi, a member of the ‘Gehwara Group’, a group working to promote literature for children, said the mobile library plays key role in promoting reading culture as the message of it is "friendship with books".
According to Fareshta, Afghanistan requires hundreds of similar libraries. Talking about himself, Mehdi said he completed his elementary school in Kabul and went to India after receiving a government scholarship and returned to Afghanistan with his undergraduate degree in political science and worked for several years in government and private sector.
After a while, she nominated herself for another scholarship and eventually moved to England to complete her master's degree at Oxford University. She then returned and established ‘Chahar Magaz’ for children. Although, she has traveled to other countries legally through scholarships, she speaks of the challenge of irregular migration.
She strongly recommends youngsters to choose regular migration.
The Afghan government, in coordination with national and international institutions, has set up a Center for Irregular Migration to guide and prevent irregular migration. The center provides counseling services and information on scholarships for young people.
Fariha Jabarkhel, a consultant at this center, told Salam Watander that the Migration Information Center regularly organizes workshops to spread awareness. According to her, the center also advises youth on regular migration, job opportunities and education to motivate young people to return home.
The migration crisis in Afghanistan is deepening. In the last five years, the country has witnessed the irregular migration of millions of young people to European countries, and the tragedy of this type of migration has sometimes led to the deaths of many of them.