UNESCO and Sweden visit Kandahar’s literacy classes

Photo Credit: Lotta Westerberg/Sida


Kandahar continues to be one of the most vulnerable places in Afghanistan. UNESCO, with the generous contribution from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), is changing lives in Kandahar through support to one of the largest adult literacy programmes in Afghanistan, “The Programme for Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA)”.

The ELA programme, which aims to teach adult population, especially women, to read and write, has grown from 9 provinces in 2008 to 30 provinces in 2015, a significant achievement in the area of education, generously supported through contributions from governments of Sweden, Finland and Japan, with a total budget of 32 million USD. This was the first joint donor mission to this province for the Embassy of Sweden, Sida and UNESCO, and it was attended by Ulrika Josefsson (Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden), Birgitta Jansson (Senior Programme Manager, Sida, Stockholm), Lotta Westerberg (Program Manager, Education, Embassy of Sweden), and Akshay Sinha (Programme Coordinator, Literacy Programmes, UNESCO Afghanistan), in addition to other UNESCO programme field support staff.

ELA is a national programme of the Ministry of Education’s Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy (DMoEL) that aims to build capacity of the government to work on improving the level of literacy, numeracy, and vocational skills of the adult population. This third phase of the programme is the continuation of phases one and two that covered 600,000 literacy learners. The third phase of the programme began in 2014 and will continue till 2016, aiming to provide literacy to an additional 600,000 learners across 30 provinces, with total of 1.2 million learners by end of 2016, including over 66% female beneficiaries.

Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at 31% of the adult population (over 15 years of age). Female literacy levels are on average only 17%, with a high variation indicating a strong geographical and gender divide.


HE Mr. Tooryalay Weesa, the Governor of Kandahar, Education Director of Kandahar, Literacy Manager and UNESCO expressed their gratitude to Sida for this substantial contribution of approximately 9 million USD which will enable the programme to expand to nine extremely vulnerable and conflict affected provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Baghlan, Jawzjan, Herat, Kapisa, Kunduz, Laghman, and Paktia. The funds are being currently used in completing the provision of first cycle of Basic-General Literacy (BGL) classes, which focuses on the initial learning of reading and writing for those adults who have never been to school including women in the age range of 15 - 45. In addition, these funds are also being used in developing the national non-formal education BGL curriculum and materials and Skills-Based Literacy (SBL) instructional materials and teacher training. The governor and all local stakeholders expressed strong interest in provision of SBL module of the ELA programme, due to very high demand in Kandahar province since this province serves as a major trading center for fruits, sheep, wool, cotton, silk, felt, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. UNESCO will reciprocate this interest through deep needs analysis before selecting the skills and vocational modules and curriculum here, and possibly in the areas of canning, drying, and packaging foods, in addition to tailoring, weaving, and jam making.


Within Kandahar, ELA programme employs total of 137 facilitators (teachers) and 1 PC and 4 DCs (responsible for assisting in coordinating the field work), among them 42 females and 100 males, from the most vulnerable areas of Kandahar. The female figure is very high considering the security and the societal conditions in the province which doesn’t allow the females to move and work safely.









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