Afghanistan: Bamyan literacy campaign

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The provincial government in Bamyan has launched a campaign to make the province 100 per cent literate.

This campaign aims to eradicate illiteracy from Bamyan and declare it an illiteracy free province in the next five years.

Dr Habiba Sarabi, the Governor of Bamyan province has started this initiative with the support of UN agencies and NGOs.

"I want every literate resident of Bamyan to teach at least two illiterate persons and make them able to read and write through this winter," said Dr Sarabi.

The governor is hopeful for the success of the effort adding that if half of the literate people in Bamyan participate in the campaign this year, the literacy rate will double by next spring.

Afghanistan's central province of Bamyan is one of the least developed in the country and has the lowest literacy rate among the provinces of Afghanistan; there's also a huge shortage of education facilities during the long winter month.

Figures from Bamyan's department of education show that around 110,000 students are enrolled in schools which make up some twenty per cent of the total population.

"We plan to announce Bamyan a province free of illiteracy by 2014. We have started registering volunteers for this purpose, many people are contacting us to volunteer," said Raza Ada, the head of Bamyan's education department.

According to the education department, the literacy campaign will first focus on the government departments and non-government organizations.

"The first phase of this campaign will target all the line departments including the police and prison services to start the campaign within their departments and continue throughout this winter. Civil society groups and NGOs have joined us for this first phase," Mr Ada added.

During the first phase, Bamyan University students and high school students will teach their illiterate family members during their winter vacation.

UN Agencies in Bamyan are supporting the provincial government's efforts for education in the province.

"Education is the most sustainable means to peace and development, we support this initiative and we are working to mobilize resources for this campaign," said Ms Heran Song, the head of UNAMA's office in Bamyan.

Following the announcement by the provincial government, non-government organizations have increased their efforts on literacy projects.

The Arzu organization is among those who are engaged in literacy and women empowerment activities in Bamyan.

The organization has recently opened a women's community centre for returnees from the Dara-e-Azdar village, a refugee settlement close to the main town.

Besides organizing literacy, health and hygiene classes for elderly women and girls, the centre provides space for carpet weaving and laundry.

Arzu is involved in generating small scale business opportunities for women in Bamyan and the women's community centre is part of the those projects targeting vulnerable families.

"Our goal is to empower Afghan women and education is the best way to do so," said Razia Jan, the programme director of the Arzu organization.

Four hundred families from the Dara-e-Azdar village benefit from the Arzu women's community centre.

"I like reading books, and I come to this centre to learn how to read and write," said Marzia, 40, who along with 20 other elderly women and girls attend literacy class in the women's centre.

By Jaffar Rahim, UNAMA