07.09.2009 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

The Literacy Stakeholders in Afghanistan Call for Urgent Attention to the Illiteracy Issue in the Country


In commemoration of International Literacy Day, September 8, UNESCO, UNICEF and UN Habitat called for sustained and serious action against the problem of illiteracy in Afghanistan, as a major obstacle to sustainable development and a peaceful society within the country.

Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, UNESCO Kabul Director, Ms. Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan and Mr. Michael Slingsby, Country Representative for UN Habitat, attended a joint press conference today in Kabul to highlight the importance of literacy as the fundamental human right and the foundation for a democratic society. 


On September 2nd, the start of the literacy campaign week in Afghanistan, a large gathering took place in Kabul, where Mr. Karim Khalili the Afghan second Vice President, Mr. Farooq Wardak, Minister of Education as well as relevant UN Agencies’ Heads, emphasized on their commitment to improving the literacy rate.  Radio and TV spots were also developed and aired; containing messages intended to encourage people to enroll in literacy classes.


The theme of this year’s International Literacy Day, ‘The Power of Literacy’ focuses on the relationship between literacy and the empowerment and participation of individuals and communities.  Literacy, it was stated, is more than simply reading, writing and computation.  It is also access to critical information and the realization of one’s human rights.  A book containing stories from literacy learners around the country was presented.  Published by UNESCO and titled ‘The Power of Literacy’, the book was a cooperative effort by UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Habitat and the Literacy Department. It gives voice to the learners on how literacy has impacted their lives. 


Afghanistan remains one of the least literate countries in the world, where one in two men and four out of every five women cannot read and write.  UNESCO and other UN agencies are working closely with the Ministry of Education to achieve literacy goals set forth in the National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) and the National Literacy Action Plan (NLAP) as well as the Education for All (EFA) goal of a 50% reduction in illiteracy rate by 2015.


To help achieve this and other literacy-related goals, UNESCO, in close collaboration with the Literacy Department of the Ministry of Education and with funding from the Government of Japan, has begun implementation of the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA) programme.  ELA will provide 600,000 people in different provinces with literacy and related skills by 2013. Considering the higher rate of the female illiteracy, 60% of the total beneficiaries will be adult girls and women.

For further information please contact Mohammd Amin Sadiqi
UNESCO Kabul Public Information Officer

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