Making children with literature

In Afghanistan, radio stories are helping to mend childhoods.

Grandparents and parents telling bedtime stories are among the memories most of us carry through adulthood. Stories, unlike toys, cost no money and can germinate on the tongue of the storyteller, or in the deep recesses of common memory and legend. The stories we heard stirred our childish imaginations, gave wings to a thousand fantasies, instilled precepts of right and wrong, and even embedded prejudices into our subconscious. But not all children can take this seemingly universal childhood memory for granted. In Afghanistan, where decades of conflict have torn families apart, uprooting them from their homes, many have grown up with their childhoods distorted by the sheer weight of survival. With fragmented families and life expectancy hovering around 40 years, children are lucky if they ever get to live with their grandparents, lucky if they can go to school, lucky if they are able to experience any of the idle joys of childhood.

Against this backdrop, the BBC's 'Stories for Living' is among the most valiant efforts to keep the imagination of Afghan childhood alive. A broadcast of children's stories, it is prepared in Dari and Pashtu by the BBC's Afghan Education Programme (AEP). AEP has also published some of the stories in colourfully illustrated books (see pics), which are bought by donors such as the Aga Khan Development Network and distributed free to Afghan children. However, given the country's low literacy rates, radio remains AEP's primary focus.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian