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Cantoned Soldiers to Teach Literacy

Cantoned Soldiers to Teach Literacy

Turning in their weapons for teacher's manuals, 20 cantoned soldiers from Pursat

province have recently completed a training course in literacy teaching and have

been redeployed to the countryside to teach their fellow cantoned soldiers and nearby

villagers to read and write.

"They receive training for six weeks, then they go to the villages where they

organize literacy classes for three months," said Yanick Van Der Beke, the director

of the UNESCO Literacy Project.

Selected out of the cantonment sites, the soldiers are transformed into literacy

instructors by Cambodian instructors who have previous teaching experience.

The UNESCO-sponsored program to train soldiers as literacy instructors began in July

and 15 cantonment sites have so far been involved. UNTAC and the International Catholic

Migration Commission are also sponsors of the program.

Van Der Beke said the objective of the program is to first provide basic literacy

skills to soldiers, women, the handicapped, and returning internally-displaced people

and refugees. And secondly, to provide some employment for demobilized soldiers.

During their six-week training course, the new instructors are given a U.S. $50 stipend

and food rations. Once they have organized classes of local villagers and cantoned

soldiers, the new instructors will receive a U.S. $75 monthly salary.

"People who are sitting eight hours a day in cantonment have no opportunity

to go to plant their rice or cut down trees. They need to make a living," Van

Der Beke said. "So if you want to canton the people, you have to compensate

them for all the time and money they are losing. Otherwise they just go home."

The new instructors ought to have plenty of work; according to UNESCO almost 70 percent

of cantoned soldiers are functionally illiterate.

"I think they [the cantoned soldiers] are very tired of fighting," said

Van Der Beke. "They all really want to stay with civilians, as civilians and

as literacy instructors."

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