17.12.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

Changing the path of life

@UNESCO/M.Amin Sadiqi--Literacy graduates in Mazar-e-Sharif

Sarah is 45 years old and mother of five children—three daughters and two sons. After finishing a nine-month literacy class, she is now able to read and write-- something that she could not think of prior to attending a literacy class offered by UNESCO in collaboration with the Ministry of Education with support from the Government of Japan.

Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world- only about one out of 10 adult women in Afghanistan are able to read and write- a daunting figure that affects the family environment and most importantly the education of children. An UNESCO report in 2011 indicated that the more literate women are, the higher the chances that their children would have a proper education.

Considering this challenge, one of the key programmes implemented by UNESCO Kabul is the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA) programme, which is one of the largest literacy interventions in the country. Started in 2008, ELA aims to provide literacy learning opportunities to 600,000 adult learners with the majority of them being women. 

In a recent monitoring mission to Balkh province,  a team consisting of key  staff from UNESCO Kabul, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Embassy of Japan visited ELA classes to gauge ELA’s progress.  The team met with learners, such as Sarah, to hear their stories and provide further support to them and their communities.  

In the visit, Sarah stated she is now able to dial a phone herself: “before learning numbers, to make a call, I had to ask others,” she explained. Now Sarah understands the signs of the shops and is very passionate about being able to recognize the expiry date of dairy products and medicine.

She is determined to guide her children into school and education: “I want them to go to school, especially my daughters. This is what my husband and I are committed to do for the sake of a better future for them.”

She admits that attending the ELA literacy class has created many positive changes in her life—the changes that she describes as “changing my path of life.”

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