Afghanistan, a landlocked country in south-central Asia, houses many different ethnic groups and extremely important trade routes. The country also has a longstanding history in literature, with poets such as Reza Mohammadi and Khaled Hosseini. Unfortunately, due to the spread of the Taliban regime and devastating wars, literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world at about 45 percent for men and 17 percent for women. In 2018, Idress Siyawash had the vision to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan with the implementation of his mobile bicycle libraries.
Mobile Bicycle Libraries
Read Books, or Ketab Lwast, is a program that Idress Siyawash started to provide books and learning experiences for children in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas. Siyawash is a student at Jahan University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Each week, he and his team travel to rural areas in Afghanistan to deliver books to children. They ride around town on bright blue bicycles with baskets full of books in order to excite the children and motivate them to learn. Then, they gather all the kids and teach them to read, write, speak and understand the importance of learning. Female volunteers travel from home to home working to encourage mothers and fathers to send their daughters to school. The female volunteers serve as models for parents who want a better, more equal life for their daughters.
Motives and Inspiration
Education rates in Afghanistan are significantly lower than those of other countries. For example, Afghanistan has an average literacy rate of 38 percent, while the international average is 84 percent. Education in rural areas is especially low. Gender inequality also affects education in Afghanistan, as many women do not have permission to attend schools, and in most provinces, the amount of female teachers is below 10 percent.
Siyawash had the determination to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan and also change Afghani attitudes regarding gender equality in terms of education. In an interview, Siyawash said, “Our idea is to show that reading is fun and explain why education is so important. If we give the children books, it might help end the way of thinking that is holding this country back.”
Obstacles and Solutions
One of the main obstacles to education in Afghanistan is distance. Some children, especially in rural areas, must walk for hours to reach their schools. For example, children in the Badakhshan province walk four hours each day to go and come back from the closest government-supported school. Siyawash’s bicycle idea tackles this obstacle effectively, bringing education straight to the children.
Another obstacle is the fear of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, especially among females. Unfortunately, Taliban members have confronted and threatened Siyawash and his team twice, but they continue to travel and provide services to children because they believe in a “different future for Afghanistan.”
Read Books has had success in its goal to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan. Over the span of just a few years, the literacy rate in Afghanistan grew from 38 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2018. Overall, the future of education in Afghanistan is looking brighter.
– Shveta Shah