Signing of the Agreement between UNESCO, the Government of Finland and the Ministry of Education of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Support of the “Programme for the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA)”
On Tuesday, 7 June 2016, His Excellency Dr. Assadullah Hanif Balkhi, Minister of Education, Her Excellency, Ms. Anne Meskanen, Ambassador of Finland to Afghanistan, and Ms. Patricia McPhillips, UNESCO Director and Representative to Afghanistan, signed an agreement in support of the Programme for the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA). The agreement consists of an additional financial commitment by the Government of Finland over three years, amounting to two million Euros, for ELA activities to be implemented jointly by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education in the four provinces of Farah, Logar, Panjsher and Parwan, which currently are without any major literacy intervention.
In addition to expanding the ELA’s outreach to underserved youths and adults who have limited or no opportunities for basic education, this additional contribution from the Government of Finland will help promote understanding and importance of literacy education for key stakeholders in Afghanistan. The country has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at about 31% of the adult population (over 15 years of age). Female literacy levels are on average 17%, with high variation, indicating a strong geographical and gender divide. The highest female literacy rate, for instance is 34.7%, found in the capital, Kabul, while rates as low as 1.6% are found in two southern provinces of the country. Male literacy rates average about 45%, again with high variation. The highest male literacy rates are in Kabul, at 68%, while the lowest is found in Helmand, at 41%.
ELA is a national programme of the Ministry of Education (MoE) that aims to improve the level of literacy, numeracy and vocational skills of the adult population in all 34 provinces. In addition to the ongoing support of the Ministry of Education, the Adult Literacy Programme has been made possible with the generous support of the Governments of Finland, Sweden and Japan. The combined funding has resulted in the ELA Programme being the largest Government-run adult literacy project in Afghanistan. With the allocation of Finnish funds to the provinces of Farah, Logar, Panjsher and Parwan, through the Ministry of Education’s outreach programme, ELA will now ensure the provision of adult literacy opportunities in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
Finland has been supporting the Programme for Enhancing Literacy in Afghanistan since 2014. The results of the programme have demonstrated how literacy can change lives of women and men. Education and literacy have an essential role in reducing poverty and creating social justice, and are key sustainable development.
ELA program gives special attention to attract and maintain women as participants. By the end of 2017, ELA will have reached out to approximately 1.2 million youth and adults in all 34 provinces. In its current third phase alone, the programme will reach approximately 620,000 individuals.
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