Building a School Library in Kabul, Afghanistan

Presented by: Sajia Darwish, Junior at Mount Holyoke College
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This webinar told the story of the Baale Parwaz Library project that was co-founded by Sajia Darwish, a junior at Mount Holyoke College, who has been studying in the U.S with the support of AGFAF, so she can return to help the Afghan people.

Sajia shared how she returned to her country, and in one summer, built a library at her former school, Mohammad Asif Mayel School – a school of 3,500 students that had no library. Within the first week home, Sajia secured the interest of the principal and was also able to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Education to enclose space offered by the school to build and operate a school library. There were many challenges, but Sajia completed the library in a very short time, and named it Baale Parwaz (wings to fly) Library.

Sajia has said of her experience, “Working on this project has been one of the most challenging and exhilarating experiences. It has fostered personal growth in many areas of my life. I have not only been able to connect with the Afghan people on a much deeper level than any other one of my stays in Kabul during the last seven years. But on a larger scale, I have also learned how to create a counter model for the patriarchic society of Afghanistan through first empowering myself and then other girls and women.”

The library opened August 21, 2016 with over 250 guests and officials in attendance. Here are some of the highlights of the library program thus far:

  • 400-500 young Afghan girls use the library daily
  • The library has over 2,500 books and 100 reference books selected by the teachers and numerous circulation books (novels, story books, etc.)
  • Several teachers use the library daily to prepare to teach their classes
  • A local poet has donated 1,000 digitized books that students will be able to read in the library on tablets AGFAF will provide
  • Several reading clubs have been organized by grade across the grades
  • The students in the older reading club (7th-11th graders) have begun their own outreach program to the street children of
  • Kabul, most of whom are in 6th grade or younger and work on the streets to help support their families
  • They are working to make BPL digital! They plan to provide internet service, computers and training in digital literacy
  • Librarians will be particularly interested in the story of building and growing this library. Sajia is very interested in making connections with librarians who have ideas for how they can continue to grow the program and make the most use of their limited resources for such a large number of students.

Any educator who wants to be inspired by what can be accomplished by a young women with dedication to help her people should view this webinar!