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Literacy Program Taking Off in Afghan District

By Jerry Griffis | Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force | 29 January 2013
Two Afghan boys holding books (DOD/Jerry Griffis)

Children in the Afghan village of Shagowlay, in Ghazni province, hold up books that will help them learn to read and write as part of a new radio literacy program.

Ghazni Province, Afghanistan — As the Afghan Local Police entered the village of Shagowlay, children from all over the village ran to greet them. The smiles from the children were returned by smiles from the ALP.

Two black duffel bags dropped to the ground and the children surrounded the ALP with anticipation. One ALP member opened the bags as another tried to get the children to settle down. This was a day when the children would be given a chance their parents never had: to learn to read and write.

The bags the ALP were carrying that day contained books that the children would take back to their homes to begin a radio literacy program.

“The last three decades have been very bad for the people in Afghanistan, especially in this area,” said Mohammed Azam, the Qara Bagh ALP commander. “There are so many illiterate people, so this is a great step in that they are getting educated.”

The program is designed to teach the residents of Qara Bagh district basic reading and writing in Pashto. The program relies on hand-crank radios and lesson books that are handed out to local residents. The lessons are broadcast from a radio tower and received on the radios. Residents can follow along in the lesson books.

Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan Local Police, distribute the radios and lesson books to the local population in Qara Bagh district.

“As soon as the ALP spread the message that the radio had begun broadcasting and that there were radio literacy programs for the children, everyone was very happy,” said Azam.

The program will broadcast reading lessons throughout the district in the mornings and evenings. One lesson is played per week.

Each lesson is approximately 10 minutes and there are 46 lessons in the program. The program takes 10–15 weeks to complete.

“Having a pen in [the children’s] hands is better than a rifle or gun,” said Azam. “It will improve their generation. Our next generation will be educated. They will have the opportunity to be doctors, teachers, or anything they want.”