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글을 읽고 쓸 줄 아는 것의 힘

2007.10.26

* The power of literacy
* 01 Jul 2007



It may be impossible for a country to recover from a war that’s still going on. Afghanistan is trying. ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, maintains a heavy presence in Kandahar, as throughout the southern region, but the hoped for improvement in security hasn’t happened and the insurgency seems to be spreading.


Against the tide of the times, UNICEF is doing its best to ensure that even if the war goes on at least it won’t be fought as much by children in the future as in the past.


UNICEF is investing $250,000 of its hard-pressed resources, into six centres for the retraining of former child soldiers in useful skills. 500 of them here, who will hope to soldier no more. They were mostly recruited into the irregular armies which overthrew the Taliban.
“I was actively fighting, firing rockets and machine guns. I was very young, so I didn’t know what I was doing. I was enjoying it.”


“I was only 14 at the time and on a checkpoint. My hope is to learn the skills and have my own shop and earning place.”


And even in wartime progress is being made towards a new and better Afghanistan. These are the children of mothers who were until recently totally illiterate.


And upstairs at an adult literacy centre are learning new skills like reading and writing as well as old ones like embroidery. The theory goes: if you educate a man you educate a man, but if you educate a woman you educate a family. They say that learning to read is like learning to see.


“I didn’t know anything, she says. I was like a blind person sitting at home.”


“We should continue with this. God willing, there will be victory for all if we continue with this.”


We’re on the way by air, because roads are unsafe, to Herat in the west, a refugee and border city where the conditions facing children and their mothers, especially single mothers, are so hard to describe it is better perhaps to just to show them.


350 women work from 6 in the morning to 4.50 in the afternoon sifting through goats’ hair, separating the finer strands from the coarser ones, to go into the making of fine fabrics for the fashion houses of Europe and America. They earn about $2 a day each. And are grateful for it. It’s all they have to live on.


Their babies come with them and are hung above them. Their daughters work alongside them. This girl is 11. The sons must go elsewhere, which is unlikely to be school.


Her husband was killed when her daughter was two. She says she cannot afford to send her children to school because they all have to work.


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