UN agencies launch much needed literacy programmes across Afghanistan

20 April 2009 – The United Nations today announced the launch of a literacy initiative in Afghanistan, which has some of the lowest rates of reading and writing in the world.

An estimated 90 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men in rural areas of Afghanistan, where the large majority live, are illiterate, according to the 2005 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report for Afghanistan.

“Addressing the challenges posed by the low literacy rate in Afghanistan contributes to the eradication of poverty, access to health, sustainable development and the ability of Afghans to enjoy a peaceful and democratic society,” said Shigeru Aoyagi, Country Director for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Mr. Aoyagi told reporters in Kabul that “at least 11 million Afghans aged 15 and over are in need of literacy and skills development,” at the launch of this year’s UNESCO Education for All: Global Action Week.

“Despite these daunting figures, literacy and non-formal education programmes are priority areas within the National Education Strategic Plan,” said Mr. Aoyagi, noting that both UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are currently working with the Ministry of Education on non-formal literacy programmes.

He said that the UNESCO Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan programme will operate in 18 provinces, providing 600,000 learners, 60 per cent of them women, with literacy and further skills training by 2013.

UNICEF said that its initiative, operating in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, will contribute to achieving a 20 per cent increase in the literacy rate for women by 2013, noting, however, that security is a prerequisite for the long-term success of the effort.

“In order to safeguard the gains that are being made in the field of literacy, UNESCO and UNICEF are strongly urging the Government and local communities across Afghanistan to renew their commitments to protect schools, literacy centres, learners and teachers from violent attacks,” said Gopal Sharma, UNICEF Deputy Representative.

During the Global Action Week countries all over the world reaffirm their commitment to achieving the “Education for All” goals set by over 160 countries at the 2000 World Education Conference in Dakar, Senegal.


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