04.10.2016 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

UNESCO and Ministry of Education Celebrate International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is one of the most important dates on UNESCO’s calendar and its message is particularly pertinent in Afghanistan, a country with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. With the goal to increase the literacy rate of country, the Ministry of Education, UNESCO and the donor community have joined efforts and dedicated significant resources to tackling low literacy rates, by supporting the largest literacy program in Afghanistan.

A weeklong celebration was organized in the lead-up to International Literacy Day (8 September) by UNESCO and the Afghanistan Ministry of Education, to promote the importance of literacy in the country.

Events got under way on 3 September with the Ministry of Education and Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy holding a press conference at the Park Star hotel in Kabul, which was opened by H.E.Asadullah Hanif Balkhi, Minister of Education of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He highlighted the immense potential of literacy to change the lives of Afghans for the better. 

H.E. Mr. Balkhi urged members of the public as well as influential religious scholars to help in spreading this message and highlighted the significant role that media can play in promoting literacy and encouraging all Afghans to become literate, “I would like to request our respected nation to fully support the literacy programs of the Ministry of Education so that together we fight against illiteracy as a nation and hopefully eradicate it from our country”.  

H.E. the Deputy Minister, Dr. Sardar Mohammad Rahimi outlined his ministry’s efforts to promote literacy through a wide variety of channels, in particular drawing on influencers to spread the message.

On 4 September, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, led the Literacy Week celebration, welcoming representatives of donor countries, literacy stakeholders, religious scholars, line ministers of the National Literacy Committee, and members of Parliament.

CEO Abdullah Abdullah thanked the Ministry of Education, Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy and all the national and international organizations who work on improving literacy in Afghanistan for their tireless efforts in bringing quality education and literacy to Afghans all over the country.  CEO Abdullah highlighted the importance of the Literacy Week campaign in raising awareness around the country’s illiteracy challenges, calling on all Afghans to join in the effort to overcome obstacles, “When the door to knowledge and education closes, the doors to darkness and ignorance opens widely,” said CEO Abdullah.

International Literacy Day was celebrated and acknowledged with several planned events throughout the country including the organization of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, holding a public Literacy Week celebration in Babur Gardens.

The campaign was set to conclude with a celebration for literacy with the awarding of the Bibi Gul UNESCO Literacy prize to be presented by Afghanistan’s Goodwill and Literacy Ambassador, the First Lady of Afghanistan. The prize was initiated to recognize the outstanding efforts of governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as other institutions in implementing innovative and effective approaches for youth and adult literacy education in Afghanistan. The award ceremony was scheduled to take place inside the Ministry of Defense compound.  However due to security incident around the Ministry at that time, the event was to be postponed – to be rescheduled in the near future.

   * UNESCO is the implementer of the largest literacy project in Afghanistan, the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA) program, which aims to improve the literacy, numeracy and livelihood skills of both youth and adults in all of the country’s 34 provinces. The ELA programme has been able to reach the most remote regions of Afghanistan and transform the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to access education. The program is funded by the governments of Japan, Sweden and Finland, with the UNESCO office in Kabul providing technical support. 

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