The agreement was signed by the Afghan Minister for Education Hanif Atmar and the UN-HABITAT Chief Technical Adviser Binod Shrestha while Peter Argo, Acting Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Afghanistan witnessed the ceremony.
Speaking during the occasion, Mr. Atmar said that under the programme, known as Learning for Community Empowerment, his ministry would for the first time be implementing a truly national programme covering all the provinces in Afghanistan. He stressed that the programme was designed by Afghan professionals and will be implemented by the Ministry with the technical assistance from UN-HABITAT.
Speaking on behalf of UN-HABITAT, Mr. Shrestha said: "Today is another milestone in the UN-HABITAT's programme in Afghanistan. UN-HABITAT has been uninterruptedly working in Afghanistan since 1992 in contributing to the improvement of lives of the people."
He added that since 2002 the agency has been providing support in the implementation of the Government's flagship programme the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) designed to empower people to take development into their hands. The LCEP programme builds on the experience with the National Solidarity Programme and the community development councils".
USAID Director Argo noted that the programme marked an important milestone for thousands of rural women and men who were denied opportunities to participate in the education system and to work in a way that would sustain their families.
Most rural Afghans, and many in urban areas, live at or below a subsistence level. They have limited or no literacy and numeracy skills and almost no accumulated assets to take the first steps out of poverty. It is estimated that over 11 million Afghan citizens require basic literacy education, and great disparity exists in the literacy rates between urban and rural communities, among provinces, and between men and women.
UN-HABITAT will work in partnership with the Ministry of Education to establish a National Literacy Center to build the capacity of the Ministry of Education at the national, provincial and community levels and to offer a community economic empowerment and educational initiative. This programme is building the capacity of the Ministry of Education to enable individuals and their communities to develop functional literacy and numeracy skills, to stimulate growth in the local economies, and strengthen social and political capital. The programme integrates literacy and numeracy education, self help group development for savings and investment, and productive skills training.
The donors for the project include USAID which will contribute USD 40 million, the Ministry of Education which will provide USD 21 million as counterpart funding and the World Bank will provide USD 1.5 million for productive skills training. It is expected reach 312,000 adults and older youth in 3,120 rural and urban areas in 20 provinces with women comprising 60 percent of the total programme participants.