News: Panjshir PRT delivers literacy books to local Afghan children
By U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Ryan
Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Civil Affairs
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Civil Affairs and the Anaba District governor conducted a school supply distribution at the Sangin Primary School here Sept. 27.
The Panjshir PRT, as part of a Commander’s Emergency Response Program bulk fund’s project, purchased 4,000 illustrated books written by Afghan author, Idries Shah.
Shah is an Afghan-born, British-educated novelist dedicated to preserving Afghan culture.
The team purchased four of the six titles available and delivered them to the Shutol, Anaba, Rohka and Bazarak District directors of education to be distributed.
The books are published by Hoopoe Press, an educational non-profit organization founded more than three decades ago. According to their website, they are dedicated to helping children develop an understanding of themselves and the world around them.
The books are printed locally in Kabul and are based on several traditional Afghan folklore tales that are not ethnic specific, but illustrate learning-based stories.
According to Hoopoe Press, “These stories are a part of Afghanistan’s rich oral tradition, told by campfire and candlelight for more than 1,000 years. Selected and written especially for children by the Afghan author and [academic], Idries Shah, these universal tales have been commended by Western educators for their ability to foster thinking skills and perception.”
“The books have been met with a lot of enthusiasm, even amongst grown men,” said U.S. Army Spc. LeAnne Kwait, Panjshir PRT Civil Affairs team member and Levittown, Pa., native.
They are illustrated in a humorous and colorful way and are written in both Dari and Pashtu, said Brother Khan, the Shutol director of education, through an interpreter.
“It is good that these are written in both languages; it adds to the student’s knowledge of their culture,” said Khan.
“The children who can read are bringing them home and reading them to their families who can’t read,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael O’Neill, Panjshir PRT Civil Affairs team leader and Narberth, Pa., native. “This promotes literacy and gets their family excited about reading. Additionally, it allows the teachers another avenue to promote Afghan social values through these stories.”
O’Neill said that the project began at Merion Elementary School in Merion, Pa.
“It began as a community-service fundraiser at the elementary school,” said O’Neill. “Sally Mallam, the director of Hoopoe Books, also found a corporate sponsor who matched the amount raised, doubling the first order.”
Based on the Afghan response to the initial donation of the literacy books, additional books were purchased by the Panjshir PRT.
The Panjshir PRT Civil Affairs team intends to purchase another 24,000 books to distribute across the province.