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When you think about Afghanistan, poetry may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Though it is little known outside of Afghanistan itself, the nation has a rich and ancient literary history, dating back almost 800 years.
Back then, Afghanistan was a cradle of poetic expression, with one of the world’s best-known poets – Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi or “Rumi”- at the cultural epicentre. His ancient lines of Farsi poetry are acclaimed the world over, as are the lines of other great Persian, Pashtun and Arab writers.
For many modern Afghans, the mystical and romantic symbolism of these poetic works capture the spirit of the nation’s civil reconstruction; rejecting violence in favour of tolerance, creativity and an emphasis on unique spiritual journeys.
Assadullah Ehtshamis one young Afghan working to promote the ethics contained in these sentiments.
A poet, children’s author and graduate of literature from Balkh University, Assadullah wants to give every child in Afghanistan the gift that shaped his mind, outlook and career; the gift of reading. Like Assadullah, here at the ACAA we believe that language and storytelling have a big role in children’s development. That’s why ensuring English language capability (via ESOL) is at the heart of our refugee support service offering.
Assadullah pursues this mission by distributing books of old Afghan tales and poetry. He says the books, which he has been distributing for two years, are helping children to connect and appreciate their national culture and identity.
“These books include fairy tales, poems and nursery rhymes, I wanted to collect authentic and classical tales, so we can prevent it from becoming history. It is being used less and less and most of these have positive messages and are specifically made for kids.”
For Assadullah, achieving his desired goal means making books as accessible as possible. Since most children in Afghanistan don’t have access to libraries, this has meant forging connections with education providers:
“We have published and distributed around 3,000 books, which have been used in school functions, we have also shipped some books to neighbouring province, public and private schools, and so forth.”
Teachers and school leaders say they have benefited greatly from their partnerships with Assadullah:
“Encouraging children to read, and supporting a culture of reading, specifically for our regeneration, is very beneficial. It can create a passion for reading among children, and that can help them progress.”
The children are on board too, with Assadullah having amassed a significant following in Balkh and its neighbouring provinces. Assadullah Danish, the recipient of an Afghanistan fairy tale, smiled as he remarked, “Reading books is great, it will develop our brains.”
Assadullah’s book project is the stuff of great literature. A shining example of the positive change that one individual can achieve in the face of big challenges. By providing education to the next generation and preserving Afghan heritage in the face of threats, Assadullah proves that every individual’s contribution to our society can make a difference.