Three girls with pencils and books in their hands. (Source: Jens Großmann)

Educational wasteland in Afghanistan:
children need books

Afghanistan: Reading is education and education equals future prospects. However, good literature is hard to come by in crisis-ridden Afghanistan – for children, the door to knowledge and understanding is one that only opens very slowly. This is why Kindernothilfe is putting its weight behind a project that is publishing high-quality books for girls and boys: books that convey values to children and open up new worlds for them. Please support our work with a donation or sponsor a project.

Schooling is not a given

Although schooling is officially compulsory for children between the ages of seven and 13, only 68 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls actually attend primary school. If girls go to school in the first place, they often have to leave early if they are needed by their families or if they are to get married – housework taking the place of homework.

Lack of literature for children

Although Nazanin (9) goes to school and learns to read and write there, she has never owned a real children’s book. For her and her schoolfriends, the road to education is far from smooth: there is a lack of qualified teachers, suitable school buildings, money and know-how for setting up libraries and training teachers.

There are hardly any quality children’s books to expand the schoolchildren’s horizons both inside and outside the classroom and to nurture their dreams. Books that explain to children the difference between good and bad, that teach them to respect nature and other people and to think for themselves. Books have the power to create oases of knowledge, imagination and ideals in a country in which civil war and the Taliban’s regime of terror have left behind an educational wasteland.

The appetite for reading is growing

Children in Kabul, Afghanistan, reading books. (Source:
For the children, books are oasis full of knowledge.

But things are looking up. The illiteracy rate is falling and more and more children are going to school – over eight million at the last count. Hundreds of new schools, both state and private, have been opened over the past few years. In Kabul alone, there are now around 300 private schools. This is because more and more parents in Afghanistan understand that education is the key to a good life. They want their children to read and to learn.

New books convey values

Kindernothilfe is supporting a project that designs, prints and distributes books for Afghan children aged six and over. Local partner organisation Operation Mercy reports steadily growing success: it already has 26 titles in its programme – with a total of 59,500 books that have already reached more than 97,700 children and young people. Every year, new books are published and out-of-print books reprinted. For this, children in Afghanistan need your donations.

“Heidi” in the Hindu Kush

The colourfully illustrated, lovingly designed volumes recount Afghan fables and legends that teach children the traditions of their homeland. Animal books convey the wonder of nature to the young readers. And international classics such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Les Misérables – translated into local languages Dari and Pashto – give insight into foreign cultures. As “Heidi” is now available in Dari, even the picture-book world of the Swiss mountains is being enjoyed in the Hindu Kush.

Teaching children to think

At the end of the books, there are supplementary questions that encourage children to think critically – and that convey values such as honesty, fairness and responsibility for the environment.

And this concept is bearing fruit: “After reading the book ‘Listen to the Animals’, I swore that I would never mistreat an animal again”, says Alena (8). And Nazanin (9) learned a valuable lesson from Pinocchio: “Of course I know that lying doesn’t make your nose grow long, but since reading Pinocchio, I don’t lie to my mother any more.”

The books are not given away but are sold for a small price. In this way, children and their parents learn that books are valuable. Your donations will enable 24,000 new books to be printed.

Project No. 27502

How we promote education

How we promote education

Some 57 million children worldwide are still unable to attend school. Each of these children is in danger of being drawn into a vicious cycle of inadequate educational opportunities and abject poverty. We have made education the main focus of our work.

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Our objective: Realising children's rights

Our objective: Realising children's rights

Any interventions aimed at a long-term positive impact on children's lives must contribute to realising and safeguarding their rights. This is the focus of our work, both in Germany and abroad.

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