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Donation of Illustrated Children's Books to Afghanistan (2019)


Cover page of Ongaeshi (Payback)

As one of several measures aimed at supporting the education of Afghan girls and women, since 2012 the Global Collaboration Center has utilized the Nonoyama Endowment for Women's Education in Afghanistan and Other Developing Countries to extend assistance to a program for the provision of picture books and library services in collaboration with the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA).

In 2019, we produced a picture book titled Ongaeshi (Payback) and distributed 2,400 copies (comprising 1,200 copies each in the Dari and Pashto languages) to 173 school libraries and related facilities primarily in Afghanistan's Kabul and Nangarhar Provinces. A cumulative total of 261,988 children have already enjoyed this book. The story in Ongaeshi begins from its cover page with the compelling scene of lush forest under a clear blue sky and a single bird perching on a tree branch with its gaze on a small ant that appears to be drowning. Resembling a tale from Aesop's Fables, the story depicts how an ant is saved by a swallow, and later pays back the favor by rescuing the swallow when it is targeted by a hunter. This book has stimulated the imaginations of children and helped them to better understand that "one good turn deserves another," in other words, that doing good deeds can be to their own benefit. Several new artists and editors joined in the production of Ongaeshi, which aspired to bring children into closer contact with a more-diverse array of drawing styles and formats.

Additionally, to ensure that the prepared picture book would be effectively utilized, the SVA's Afghanistan office held a series of training courses for schoolteachers as well as courses aimed at helping librarians master effective methods for the use of library and book resources. A cumulative total of 664 individuals participated in these training activities.

Librarians and schoolteachers in training

Currently, the educational opportunities are limited in Afghanistan due to the shutdown of schools and public facilities in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. With frequent temporary closure of many schools by the deteriorating security and election-related reason, SVA’s library services had already reported the decrease of the books lent out and the library users last year compared to the average year but it seems that the influence of the coronavirus has made the children even more difficult to access to the books.
Precisely when there are restrictions on going out or refraining from activities, children need something like picture books that will help make life at home more enjoyable and put their minds at ease.
Meanwhile, the SVA Afghanistan Office has continued to pursue its operation with heightened considerations with measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.For example, it is exploring ways to loan out books without opening libraries and, for publication activities of the year 2020, has been coordinating its publication activities with artists and editors through email channels. We are hopeful the coronavirus pandemic will be brought under control at an early date and look forward to the day that children will be able to return to their schools, visit their libraries, and enjoy reading picture books with renewed peace of mind.

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