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Unfolding Projects: Afghan and Australian Artist Book Collaborations

Rosalind Atkins & Hamida
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Rosalind Atkins & Hamida 2010

The persecuted Afghan women, that compose half of the society, have spent their lives for years within the walls of their houses under the oppression of patriarchy and have been deprived of all their rightful rights. Women have only had the right to engage with the household works within the walls of the family, and have been deprived of the opportunities available outside the house such as freedom of speech, education and training.

Particularly, the women who live in villages and the countryside suffer a lot in this respect. Because in the villages a woman is like a slave for a man; if they raise their voice they will be silenced.


Later, in 1381 (2001 AD) when the transitional government came to power with the help of the international friends, it brought happiness in the hearts of Afghan women. With the arrival of this period, the time of darkness ended. Now that a safe environment has become possible for the progress of Afghan women in all areas of life, we ask our international friends to cordially support us in availing us of this opportunity so that all Afghan women can take pen and paper in hand and the foundation for their education and training can be prepared.


All this can happen only when all the opportunities for education are provided to the Afghan women who have suffered for long years in the prison of sorrow and grief. Therefore, we ask our friends not to spare us any support in having courses and skills training etc in our schools.


Long live the freedom of women,

Long live the proud and great Afghan women,

Do not let Afghan women suffer any longer from this tyranny and cruelty.

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Tracey Avery & Sara 2010

I am an orphan girl. My brother beats me up. I used to be very miserable, I was always inside the house, but now I am happy that I learnt sewing through OPAWC's arts and crafts course. We are in need of your assistance. The course should help us. We love you. Now that I have learnt something here, I am very

happy. Save us from misfortune.

Tracey Avery & Sara
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Marian Crawford & Zeyba 2010

One day I saw a mother who had lost her six sons in the war and was begging. I asked her why do you beg and she said because I live with my two daughters-in-law and four children, if I don't beg who will feed them?

I became very depressed and said, 'Oh God! What misfortune is this?'

I told that woman, 'I will introduce you and your daughters-in-law to a sewing course.' But she said, 'I am not allowed to go to any place.'

I asked, 'Who does not allow you that?' and she said, 'My husband's brother is an addict.'

I became very depressed and left.

I saw another woman another day who had a sick child in her arms who was crying. she had come to see a doctor. I went to her and asked her, 'Why are you crying?' and she said, 'My baby is sick and I have no money for his treatment to buy the expensive medication.' I asked her what the father of the child does and she said that he is mentally ill and doesn't work.

I asked her, 'who pays for your children's expenses?' and she said, 'One of my in-laws used to help me, but six monthes ago he got married and now his wife does not let him help with my children's expenses. His wife says to him that 'you have an illegitimate relationship with your brother's wife. That's why you give her money. I don't know now what to do with my child and my sick husband, where should I go? My father's family is also very poor.'

This story made me very sad but I couldn't help.

Marian Crawford & Zeyba
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Ann Cunningham & Mariam Abeed 2010

Information about Afghanistan

As it seems, we know about Afghanistan being a war-torn country. People here are unable to live a decent life. Children here do not have the means to proper education.

We want freedom and we seek education for our future generations.


Rights, equality, basic rights, justice.

We want to see our beloved land in peace. We want freedom!

Ann Cunningham & Mariam Abeed
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Ann Cunningham & Zohra 2010

Development of Aghanistan


Education and Knowledge for women


Women's rights, social justice, peace, success, good economy, security, freedom, democracy.

Ann Cunningham & Zohra
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Ann Cunningham & Nadia 2010

I am a 20 year old woman and lost my father during the war with Taliban. Now I study and also do sewing at the OPAWC course. I am very happy with this course which helps us a lot. Illiteracy and poverty are on the rise in Afghanistan; I have a lot of family problems. I want to work now.


Ann Cunningham & Nadia
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Dianne Ellis & Laila 2010

I want to have food and water so that my children don't have to go begging. I want my children to live in a safe and peaceful environment. I want to have a life like the other women of the world. I want to have a job in my country. Support us, we are looking forward to your supports. Please don't help the warlords, instead take them to the international court. OPAWC is the real organisation helping people. Help OPAWC to help widows and women in need like us. Save Afghanistan from the hands of the barbarians. Help Afghan women.


We like OPAWC and its workers, specially our teachers


Thanks for your attention

Dianne Ellis & Zahida 2010

It was a day in winter. Russians had attacked our country. War began; my brother with my cousin went to the mountains to save their lives from the Russian bombardments. When they got close to a big block of stone, they saw that a big wolf is also hiding behind that stone. My brother and my cousin got scared from the wolf, but because their lives were in danger they also hid themselves behind that stone from the Russian bombs. Surprisingly, the wolf did not attack them, instead it stayed along with them behind that stone.


At the end I thank all the friends who help us and wish them success.

Dianne Ellis & Laila
Dianne Ellis & Zahida
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Marwa 2010

Exercise is very important for increasing one's physical capabilities. It consists of bodily movements that can be attained through football, basketball and skiing or specified arms, legs and neck routines that are all vital for strengthening bodies. Swimming, too, is a form of exercise that requires orderly movements to be able to prevent death of humans. We should introduce exercising to our children from a very young age, so they can be forever healthy and full of energy. 


Thanks to the OPAWC organisation for embracing widowed and impoverished women and educating us.

Susan Gordon-Brown & Marwa
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Fatima 2010

I am the mother of two girls and two boys. My husband married a Russian woman in a foreign land. We became alone. As I had two breastfed children, I could not feed them myself so I gave them powder milk. And now my child looks weak and was sick all the time and became malnourished. I knew that breastfeeding is good for babies until the age of two, but I had to work to support my children. All these problems have been very frustrating for me, but due to migration and loneliness I have suffered a lot.

Now the father of the children is overseas and his wife has also divorced him; he cannot even come back due to his humiliation. But his fourteen year-old daughter is living with her father, but he also sends our expenses and house rent for us. I am now studying at the OPWAC literacy centre.

Susan Gordon-Brown & Fatima 2010
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Jennifer Kamp & Sagia 2010

We have always had the wish that our country be liberated and free and that it is liberated from the hands of the foreign and political enemies. So in order that we see our country liberated, prosperous and independent, we should be united; and together we should try hard not to allow the enemies and the traitors to betray our material and spiritual treasures, and loot and destroy our wealth, honour, and our homeland. National unity will result in a free homeland and will let no foreigner enter our dear country Afghanistan.


And the most important work for the freedom of our country is that we get education and with education and knowledge we bring freedom for our country on our own. At the end we are very thankful that courses such as this are run so that we can get more education and become literate. Such works of patriotism will result that there will be no one illiterate in any home and the liberation of the country will be guaranteed one hundred percent.



Follow the good path of the liberated men;

You, the standing one! Take the hand of the fallen one.

Jennifer Kamp & Sagia
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Deborah Klein and Majabeen 2010

I was a child with a lot of interests in learning and education but unfortunately I did not have a family to allow me to study. My father used to say (sarcastically), "What is a girl good for? And what good could be her education! I will never let my daughters go to school, just the Qur'an."


Until one day a man came and asked my mother to allow us to go to school and I insisted as well and told him my name (to register me for school). When my father learnt about it, he became angry at me and the next time the man came to take me to school, my father told him, '"How much do you want, to leave us alone?"

My father was rich and he gave some money and some livestock to that man and told him never to return.

That man went and never came back. I was left an illiterate with my childhood interests for education.


I grew up and got married and came to Kabul, got children and tried hard to get them an education. Life went on and at certain moments in life I strongly felt the need to have been literate, meaning I could hardly figure out the difference between a pharmacy and a clothing shop.


My children became educated, my two sons graduated from university, one of my daughters is studying in university and the others are also studying in different grades. I was the only one left illiterate at home, and now I am doing this literacy course run specifically for people like me, and with the help of God and hard working teachers I have changed a lot from the past and can solve some of my problems myself.


I should say that students are very happy from their teachers because they work hard with a lot of patience, and I thank the people who run this literacy course and guide the oppressed women of Afghanistan from darkness to light and ask for their support in this area.

Deborah Klein and Majabeen
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Deborah Klein & Mahjan 2010

Homeland, liberty, peace, security, prosperity, women's rights, justice, work are our slogan!


This homeland is Afghanistan – which is the pride of the Afghans


I am a woman who has woken up – I have found my path, and I will never return back.


In our dear country Afghanistan, trees blossom in Spring. Blossoms are beautiful flowers. We must not destroy the beautiful flowers. Everywhere in our country is like a flower if we work hard and let it blossom and not destroy. People will then live a good and peaceful life. Children will happily go to school and think about a bright future and will avoid doing bad things. This will make our country progressive. Women like us thank a lot for teaching us literacy and education and we hope there will be more support and cooperation in the area of education.

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Rosalind Atkins & Nadia 2010

Women's Freedom!

End Violence!


Peace, friendship, freedom, justice, equal rights, education and discipline, no war!

Deborah Klein & Mahjan
Rosalind Atkins & Nadia
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Anne Riggs & Morsal 2010

When there is peace, education and work are done better. National unity brings peace and prosperity. All human beings have equal rights. Work and employment brings progress in a society. Work makes men healthy. Work has a lot of benefits for men. Working with a machine is easier; by working money is earned.


Leather is made of animal's skin. Human beings have used leather to make various clothing items such as shoes, dresses, belts, gloves etc to make for their needs. Gloves are used in the cold weather.


This woman is a tailor. Tailoring is a good profession. She earns money from tailoring. Working with a machine is easy. Tailoring has good income. She is a tasteful tailor. Tailored items should be  kept clean.

Anne Riggs & Morsal
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Anne Riggs & Nazia 2010

Things don't come easily in life. I'd love to become a tailor, to make my dream into reality and make beautiful dresses. My cousin is getting married and I would love to make her a dress but she won't be able to wear it if 

it’s a Western-style dress.


We have to work hard to continue our life. All Afghan people work hard.

Anne Riggs & Nazia
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Anne Riggs & Jamila 2010

The persecuted Afghan women, that compose half of the society, have spent their lives for years within the walls of their houses under the oppression of patriarchy and have been deprived of all their rightful rights. Women have only had the right to engage with the household works within the walls of the family, and have been deprived of the opportunities available outside the house such as freedom of speech, education and training. Particularly, the women who live in villages and in the countryside suffer a lot in this respect. Because in the villages a woman is like a slave for a man; if they raise their voice they will be silenced. Later, in 1381 (2001 AD) when the transitional government came to power with the help of the international friends, it brought happiness in the hearts of Afghan women.


But after nine years of support from our international friends, nothing has been provided for us - the women of Afghanistan. Our rights are being given to us, the money received from international countries does not come us, and it goes to the pockets of the warlords. We hope that we can get our rights one day and women are equal in their rights to men.

Anne Riggs & Jamila
Annelise Scott & Jamila
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Annelise Scott & Jamila 2010

Long live Afghanistan,

death to the enemies.


We want the equality of rights for men and women.


When Taliban came to Afghanistan and took over the Ghazni province, we migrated to Pakistan and from there we came to Kabul. As we were refugees, we didn't have food and clothes and we were without shelter. A lot of people were killed in these wars, a lot of them remained in prisons, their children were without a future and were always waiting for the day to return to their homeland.


When we went to our villages, we had neither tree, nor home, nor water. But still, the foreign friends helped our country, otherwise we wouldn't have anything to eat. After that people started to work. Gradually working began and people could go to school to study.


In schools, there were no teachers. Gradually refugees returned, and the people from UNESCO literacy centre came. We could not study there; we came to Kabul and came to the OPAWC literacy centre. We started getting lessons from good teachers. We can read, write letters; we want these courses to continue and make people like us and our countrymen literate.

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Annelise Scott & Amina 2010

Our country, Afghanistan, was green when there was no war. Afghanistan had trees full of fruits and also trees without fruits; when war broke out in Afghanistan, all the greenery of Afganistan was destroyed, houses were destroyed, people of Afghanistan became refugees and we, the women and girls, could not go to schools.


For our progress in education we need your help. We hope that for better education you will help us and cooperate with us.


Help us friends

Annelise Scott & Amina 2010

Annelise Scott & Hamida 2010

We are in dire need of your assistance, friends. We are in need of your help. Help your Afghan sister out. I can read and write letters and am very thankful to OPAWC organisation for providing us with a literacy course.


I am a 45 years old lady with eight children. Because I got married at a very young age, I couldn't continue with my studies and faced a very challenging life. By the grace of God, now that my children are grown up, I am able to study in a literacy course for women. I am thankful that now I am literate.

Annelise Scott & Hamida 2010
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Krystal Seigerman and Mansora 2010

We all know that electricity is a necessity for our life. In our daily lives we use electricity in different ways and that's why it is so important in our lives. We should use it carefully and also economically. We use electricity for various purposes such as cooking, washing, etc. Edison from America discovered electricity. Fortunately there are also some electricity plants built in some provinces of our dear country.


Thank you and thanks for organising such a useful course for us.

Krystal Seigerman and Mansora 2010
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Krystal Seigerman & Shakila 2010

I have a story that every time I remember it, I feel embarrassed.


At the time when I had not yet come to the literacy course, one day I went to the bazaar. I went and asked for the price of an item, the shopkeeper said that it was for thirty Afghanis but I told him that if he gave it for forty Afghanis I would buy it or else I would not buy it.


The shopkeeper laughed and said: "Child! Forty Afghanis is more than thirty Afghanis."


I became very embarrassed and returned home. I was embarrassed that our neighbours go to literacy courses and our father does not give us permission. I told my father this story and he agreed that I join the literacy course. I am very happy now and it is because of this literacy course.


One should burn like a candle to gain knowledge,

As without knowledge one cannot know God.

Krystal Seigerman & Shakila 2010
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Tanya Ungeri & Tamanna 2010

I am a girl who likes to learn music but in our country Afghanistan there is no security. We, the girls, are warned for going to school.


I am a girl who likes to play football, swim; but in our country there is war and insecurity. We don't have a football ground, we don't have clean water in the rivers.


But now we are working hard to gain literacy skills in one of the OPAWC literacy courses so that our eyes will see.


One should burn for getting knowledge,

Without which God cannot be known.

Tanya Ungeri & Tamanna 2010
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Rosalind Atkins & Afghan writer, name withheld 2010

All the Afghan woman are very courageous, despite all these problems they do all of their work themselves; they are very sorrowful.  They have faced different problems but still did not lose their spirit. These skills and crafts training courses are what helps them solve their problems.

Rosalind Atkins & Afghan writer

Rosalind Atkins & Afghan writer, name withheld 2010

A young girl was lost in gambling, by her mother, to an elderly man. In compensation for her mother's loss, she was forcibly married to him. Right from the beginning of their marriage, they were financially weak and her husband was a drug addict. 


Within four years, she gave birth to two children. They ended up selling all their assets and when left with nothing at home, he expected her to work as a prostitute and bring him money. He started beating her up, to the point where she could no longer tolerate it and thus ran away from home. She went to her mother's home but was, however, turned away in fear of dishonouring the family's name. Left with no hope, she started begging during the day and sleeping in a public bathhouse at night. When people inquired, she would pretend to be the bath keeper.


She found refuge at a woman's house, who then, after a period of time, forced her into prostitution. In the end, she was arrested by the district authorities and surrendered to the provincial department of Kabul. After spending a year behind bars she was given refuge at my house. There was an attempt to notify her mother of her release and a request for her acceptance, nevertheless, the offer was turned down and her husband, too, divorced her.


She was feeling despair for a long period of time, although, now she is married to another man and is living a good life. She is participating in the sewing course initiated by OPAWC so she can learn stitching. She is very happy!

Rosalind Atkins & Afghan writer
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Gali Weiss & Someyra 2010

We all know that using narcotic substances such as hashish, opium, heroin, snuff, cigarette, cocaine etc prevent us from taking part in the positive education, social and economic competitions; and that all of these become the causes of the misfortune of our society and prevent our country from progress.


Once a person is addicted to a drug, nobody likes him, all family members and relatives will avoid him and he is pushed away from the society.


We thank very much the organisations who help us with education and hope for an ever increasing support and cooperation of theirs in making us, the Afghan women, literate.


One should burn like a candle to gain knowledge,

As without knowledge one cannot know God.

Gali Weiss & Someyra 2010
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Gali Weiss & Fatima 2010

I am an unmarried woman living with my brother. My brother has no children and cannot go overseas for treatment. From poverty he went to Iran. In Iran he did very difficult jobs until one day a big block of stone collapsed on his leg and he became disabled. At the moment he cannot work, apart from one place at night time and that's it. I don't know any work either to help my brother. Now I want to learn a skill to be able to fulfil some needs of my brother's family.


Thank you for your help.

Gali Weiss & Fatima 2010
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Gali Weiss & Nafisa 2010

I am a widow and I have children. Life is very hard, and I have always stayed at home.


Since I've started coming to the sewing course of OPAWC I am very happy. I learnt sewing which helps me financially. Along with sewing I am studying here. I ask you to support widowed women like us in Afghanistan. I am very happy that in Afghanistan this is the first course where we can get training without paying any fees.

Gali Weiss & Nafisa 2010
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Gali Weiss & Mah Gul 2010

A lot of people in Afghanistan have become drug addicts because of unemployment and illiteracy. In our country there were three decades of war and drug use increased and drug addicts also increased and we must fight against drug addiction in our country and put an end to it, because it makes our young people addicts and takes our society towards misfortune, and poverty will increase.


We must try and save our country from this deadly problem. When the young people of a country who are the most important people of a country become addicts, poverty and all other problems increase in that country. We should not let this happen.


We the women and girls of Afghanistan want peace to be able to serve our people and our country.

Gali Weiss & Mah Gul 2010
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Christine Willcocks &  Nazifa 2010

(The first poem is the text in black, the second poem the text in blue)

Education is everything.

Education is a torch, education is the light of life.

Education is the beauty, education is the elegance of life.

Ignorance in life is always pain and sorrow;

Education is pleasure and joy of life.

Education shows you what is legal and illegal.

Education is the guide and instructor for life.

Let's learn it from the core of our heart.

Education is a need of life.

Let's all love education.

If education dies, life will not survive. 

Save us from the ignorance of life.

You were awake all nights, my mother

You cradled me till the afternoon, my mother

You sang me a lullaby until I fell asleep, my mother

You sang me a lullaby and rocked me so softly, my mother

You always observed and cared for me, my mother

You fully prepared me while I was going to school, my mother

You did not eat or sleep, my mother

You took care of my health, my mother

While I felt ill or restless.

Christine Willcocks &  Nazifa 2010
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Christine Willcocks & Anita 2010

School is my mother,

The pen is my sword,

Education is my strength,

The book is my friend.


The devastating story of war .

I was a young girl when the destructive war began in my land and we migrated to a neighbouring country.  Our homes were left to ruins.

There was a massacre and people were escaping to the mountains, carrying women and girls on their back. People were killing each other, one in the name of Afghan, another in the name of Hazara or Tajik. Many lost their lives while trying to bury the already slaughtered. Girls were killed and hanged in wells.

Christine Willcocks & Anita 2010
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Christine Willcocks & Basira 2010

We, having passed the night, have become homeless.

We, having waited for the morning, are following the dawn.

If we think that Afghanistan is being invaded by other countries, we the young people will never let that happen.

We will save our country to the last drop of blood, this country belongs to the Afghans.


Your love is my pride oh my homeland!

For you, I'll give my life oh my homeland!

You can't earn a treasure without hardships,

Earning belongs to the one who works hard.


Homeland! your good name is Afghanistan,

Your air is cheerful and your sceneries lovely,


Your terrain invigorates the hearts,

The subject of our love is your soil.

Christine Willcocks & Basira 2010
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Agila 2010

During the Taliban war we fled our village and went to Yakawlung and then left for Iran.


During our journey we faced a lot of difficulties. People of Iran did a lot of cruelties to us, men and women of us were tortured. At night time we were taken off the vehicle, they had weapons... (illegible)... at that time we had no food, we were hungry, had no water and no money.


Crossing the mountains at the border of Iran, the Iranian police captured us, took us to a cold room. We did not have water, food, a blanket or carpet, it was very cold, our small child because of coldness... (illegible)... the time we spent in Iran, our elder brother... (illegible)...


We left a lot of things and returned to our country after five years. In Iran we went to a literacy course, and in our country, at the OPWC literacy centre, I am doing literacy course and with the help of my kind teacher I am learning reading and writing; I will try to continue my studies. I ask you, friends, for help to my war-torn country.

Susan Gordon-Brown & Agila 2010
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Anis Gul 2010

My husband was a painstaking and hardworking man. He spent forty years of grief in peace and quiet. When war was imposed on our country, we lost our family and home. Poverty and the lack of options withheld us from all things.  Life was miserable for my children. They used to study, but in order to be able to support ourselves we ended up seeking refuge in Iran.

When peace and security seemed plausible, we returned to our motherland and made the way to our village. But upon arrival we discovered that people's lives were absolutely razed. Homes, schools, peace and security no longer existed.

We moved back to the city of Kabul. I am now busy with the OPAWC literacy course, and my children are going to school as well.  I wish for God to bestow upon our land real peace and security, so our children are not deprived of a better future.

Susan Gordon-Brown & Anis Gul 2010
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Lida 2010

We have raised the voice of peace in the world

We have taken the peaceful flag into our hands; we are weary of war and fight

We have burnt in fight and battle

We have raised the voice from the top of the mountain of brave Afghanistan

Long live Peace!

We want peace in the world

Peace is our pride

Without peace our life is in danger

Susan Gordon-Brown & Lida 2010
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Susan Gordon-Brown & Habiba 2010

I was far away from knowledge before I took Literacy Education. I came to the course and the instructor showed me how to read and write; besides, the teacher always helped me.

Book, notebook and pen are given to me. By following the literacy education now I am able to serve my people and my country. I have learned more and more things from this course.

Susan Gordon-Brown & Habiba 2010
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