UNESCO and the government of Afghanistan launch nationwide literacy project

28-01-2003 4:00 pm (GMT) Paris - UNESCO and the Government of Afghanistan today launched a major project to boost literacy throughout Afghanistan, which suffers one of the world's lowest literacy rates. UNESCO estimates that only 51.9 percent of Afghan men over the age of 15 and a mere 21.9 percent of women in the same age group can read and write. A vast effort is underway to rebuild the country's education system and to get all Afghan children back to school. However, the adult population, which is responsible for the immediate reconstruction of Afghanistan and the revival of its economy, also needs to upgrade skills and knowledge. More than two decades of war have left Afghanistan with few qualified workers and professionals: most either fled the country or were killed during the conflict. Under the rule of the Taliban, women were not allowed to work and girls were forbidden from attending school.
The Literacy and Non-formal Education Development in Afghanistan project (LAND AFGHAN) launched today with the signing of an agreement between UNESCO and the Government of Afghanistan in Kabul, aims to fill part of the education gap that resulted from the war.

The project's main focus will be on building up a nationwide network of literacy teachers, trained in modern non-formal education methods. It will also train people in the development and production of teaching materials and provide the necessary equipment for this, including printing facilities. A wealth of existing literacy resources, developed by the Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre (ACCU) in Japan and UNESCO's Bangkok office, will be adapted and translated into the dominant Pashtu and Dari languages.

During the second phase of the project, community learning centres will be set up in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan's different regions to provide access to these literacy programmes for as many people as possible. Managers will be trained to run them. A special effort will be made to reach Afghan women and girls with the project, with the establishment of a Literacy Resource Centre for Girls and Women, sponsored by ACCU.

The project is initially financed by a US$500,000 contribution from the Japanese Government through a funds-in-trust. It is considered a flagship programme for the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) which will be officially launched at UN Headquarters in New York on February 13.

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