This Balcony Was Turned into a Library to Make Education More Accessible
“What kind of library it is? You have placed two, three cupboards in a balcony and call it library! I can’t believe my eyes you have taken us out of our class to show a balcony-library!” Horia a little student of second grade had complained when they were taken to the library to introduce it two years back. But over the course of time, she has become a voracious book reader who never cuts any the programs of the library.
Sajia Darwish introducing Bale Parwaz Library to school studetns.
It was not just the narrative of Horia- the little girl- but also of many elderlies who did not think the balcony could bring education and who might have muttered: “it is a pipe dream.” “When we offered our idea to the school administration, they dissented to grant as a class to make a library. Then, the only free space we accessed was the balcony and we concluded to turn it to library.” Remembers Sajia Darwish the founder of Bal-e- Parwaz Library.
As a senior majoring International relations in Mount Holyoke College in the U.S, Sajia came up with the idea of making a library in Kabul last year. In an online interview with Global Citizen, she noted that her thirst for books as student and their absence in Kabul on the first hand, and the moments she spent in libraries in the U.S on the other hand collaborated to build BPL in Mohammad Asif Mayil High School.
Currently, the library serves a wide range of programs. Inter-alia, arts, photography, story writing, digital literacy, workshops, seminars and literacy classes.
An American reading expert shares up-to-date means on how to read books via skype; which is the first time Afghan school students take advantage of such comments. In the meantime, the BLP has a partnership with Princeton School that allows them to exchange their stories with American peers. Hanifa Darwish currently shoulders the responsibility of translating the stories of Afghan students to English and vice versa. As she puts, it is “constructive” when the students find comments of foreigners below their stories.
The most noticeable impression is on Shah Wali, the school’s watchman, who has been working in the school for sixteen years. In childhood, his access to education was denied due to war. But he is determined to reciprocate through attending an all-female literacy class. “After sixteen years working in the school, this library made me to the books I was deprived. Now I can read magazines and the books in the library. Personally for me, it is a triumph.”
“I was born in a remote village. Education was inaccessible there. When we moved in Kabul, The Taliban were on power and they banned education for females. Afterwards, we migrated to Pakistan and our livelihood depended on sewing carpets.” Fawzia sighs when she remembers schooldays taken from her. Now she attends the literacy class in spite of shouldering the burden of school work. “At least, I can find the hospitals because I know how to read or I know how much I have spent a day.” She says.
Fawzia doing her homework at school.
The activities of Bal-e- Parwaz Library- which literally means Wings for Fly- flies beyond the boundary of walls surrounding it. The students make their own handmade gifts and present them to street kids who are deprived of education. “It is very hard to explain how you fell when you give an invaluable gift that brings smile on their lips.” Says Tamana an eight class student.
People mainly backlash when they find a bunch of girls parading on streets and giving their gifts to boys who are mostly dropouts due to their financial shortage. “But we do it anyway” is Hanifa’s response the populace.
“The students have changed in many ways. I remember they were rude at the first days. A tangible alternation is the way the choose their words when they speak; they often pose a polite and respective tone when they address others.” Says Hanifa to Global Citizen.
As Afghanistan owes a poor a culture of reading books, no individual has donated a single book to BPL. The only help from insiders has been sixty books contributed by a private school to the library. Other finance has been provided by The Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (AGFAF) based in the U.S.
The library or the way Afghans put it, house of book, aims to expand its activities. “We hope to do more. In particular, make many books available to many students in the country.” Aspires Hanifa Darwish.