24.09.2013 - UNESCO Office for Iraq

UNESCO and Iraq achieve new milestone in the fight against illiteracy

Director of UNESCO Office in Iraq Louise Haxthausen and Literacy Programme manager Ryo Justin Ragland with students at the Bilat al Chouhada School © UNESCO Iraq 2013

125 Community Learning Centres delivered to the Iraqi government

Under this year's theme, Literacies for the 21st Century, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, organized a special event in Baghdad to celebrate the International Literacy Day 2013 - an occasion that took a special significance this year with the handover of 125 Community Learning Centres (CLCs) to the Iraqi government.

Attended by all stakeholders active in the field of literacy, including the Director of the Executive Body of the High Commission for Literacy Dr. Ali Zubaidi, UNAMI representative Mr. Titon Mitra, and senior representatives from local and international NGOs and Iraqi civil society organizations, the event featured the handover of 100 CLCs established with the support of UNESCO to the Ministry of Education in Baghdad.

This step complements a similar initiative taken earlier this month, during which the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) took charge of 25 centres in the northern parts of the country.

"The UN places such a high priority on working with countries to improve literacy," stated Mr. Mitra. "Literacy has the power to lift families out of poverty in one generation, to change the fate of entire communities," he added, praising the efforts made by the Iraqi government to tackle illiteracy and in particular the goals of the 2013 National Development Plan.

Speaking at the event, UNESCO Iraq Office Director Louise Haxthausen considered this step as another achievement of "the powerful partnership between the Iraqi Ministry of Education, non-governmental organizations and international partners, including UNESCO", to complement previous breakthroughs like the National Literacy Campaign and the new Literacy Law. UNESCO Director stressed that "in order to eliminate illiteracy in Iraq by end 2015, all actors need to sustain and concretize their commitments", underlining that there are still several challenges to overcome in order to definitely eliminate in Iraq. Congratulating the attendees who graduated from these centres, Ms. Haxthausen hoped that "the knowledge and skills that they have gained will enable them to fulfil their aspirations and live a better life."

These 125 centres have served successfully, thanks to their wide distribution and focus on marginalized and vulnerable communities, as models for what can be achieved through community participation to address an important educational and social challenge.

The event was highlighted by the receipt of a gift on behalf of the centre beneficiaries by Aliya Mahmoud Mohammed, the oldest of the Centre’s students at over 70 years old. The event also saw poetry recitals from sisters Noorhan and Ayat Abdel-razzaq, respectively in 4th and 2nd grade at Bilat al Shuhadaa School. The site of the celebration in Baghdad was indeed a symbolic one, as the school is known tragically as the location on which a misdirected missile killed scores of Iraqi children during the 1980s. 33 years since the start of that conflict, it is perhaps a sign of the times that this spot is now a bright symbol of hope and progress for the future and a demonstration of the resilience and importance of education.

Within the framework of the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) project, UNESCO is providing technical assistance and capacity building for relevant Iraqi governmental bodies and local NGOs, enabling them to design and implement inclusive and effective national literacy programmes in order to reach the Education for All (EFA) goal of halving illiteracy by 2015. UNESCO has been an integral contributor to the development of the National Literacy Strategy headed by the High Commission for Literacy, which called into being the Iraqi National Literacy Campaign. The Campaign has thus far targeted over 495,000 illiterate Iraqis, with another 500,000 illiterate students expected to begin classes this month in over 5,000 literacy centres around Iraq.

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