05.09.2018 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

Afghanistan joins the world in celebrating International Literacy day

In a side event an Afghan girl wearing traditional clothes reading UNESCO DG’s message ©UNESCO/Sidiqzai

Forty years of ongoing war, migration, violence and poverty are some of the reasons there are approximately 10 million illiterate youths and adults in Afghanistan.

At the end of a week-long advocacy campaign to highlight the importance of literacy in Afghanistan, H.E. Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, H.E. Acting Minister of Education, Dr. Mirwais Balkhi, H.E. Deputy Minister of Education for Literacy, Dr. Sardar Mohammad Rahimi, UNESCO’s Director and Representative in Afghanistan, Ms. Patricia McPhillips, Ambassadors of Sweden  and Japan to  Afghanistan, civil society representatives, and stakeholders came together to celebrate the International Literacy Day, and  to highlight the achievements and challenges facing youth and adult literacy in Afghanistan.

In his remarks, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah expressed his gratitude to UNESCO and the donor countries for their contribution to youth and adult literacy. He reiterated that it is important to celebrate the international literacy day in Afghanistan because illiteracy is one of the main impediments derailing the country’s sustainable peace and development agenda. He added that “those who deprive people of the opportunity to access to education commit a great disservice to them”.  He then encouraged development partners to support the government of Afghanistan to increase access to quality, equitable and inclusive literacy for youth and adults in Afghanistan.

In his opening address, Dr. Mirwais Balkhi, Acting Minister of Education highlighted that that over 3.7 million of children are out of school, and that is according to recent study that was conducted by UNICEF on out of school children. In essence, this means that there is a high risk of ending up with more youth and adults who are illiterate. He added that there is a need for both national and international partners to work together to fight illiteracy in Afghanistan.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay’s messages was read by Ms. Patricia McPhillips, UNESCO’s Director and Representative to Afghanistan. She said “UNESCO is actively engaging with member states and other partners in redefining literacy policies and encourages innovative approaches to educational practices.”

The theme for this year’s International Literacy Day is “Literacy and Skills Development”. UNESCO Office in Kabul and DMoEL with the support from the governments of Japan, Sweden, Finland and the Republic of Korea are working closely to provide opportunities for youth and adults, especially women to learn basic occupational skills that are embedded in    the reading and writing workbooks. UNESCO supported the DMoEL to develop workbooks and to roll out skill based literacy program in 21 provinces, reaching out to approximately 18,000 learners (aged 15 years and above). Finally, the Minister of Education, H.E Dr. Mirwais Balkhi expressed his gratitude to the Ambassadors of Japan and Sweden Ambassador for their governments’ generous support to improve literacy in Afghanistan. In their speeches, the Ambassadors renewed their commitment to help increase access to youth and adult literacy in the country.

September 8 was declared International Literacy Day by UNESCO on October 26, 1966 at 14th session of UNESCO's General conference. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. In Afghanistan the celebration takes place every year and attended by high level government officials, civil society organizations, media, literacy partners, communities among others, who continue to advocate strongly for literacy.

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