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UNESCO launches major literacy campaign in Afghanistan

UNESCO launches major literacy campaign in Afghanistan

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Government of Afghanistan today launched a major project to boost reading and writing throughout the country, which suffers one of the world's lowest literacy rates.

The Literacy and Non-formal Education Development in Afghanistan project (LAND AFGHAN aims to fill part of the education gap that resulted from the war, UNESCO said. The project's main focus will be on building a nationwide network of literacy teachers, trained in modern non-formal education methods.

Coping with more than two decades of war has 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 agency 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.

While a vast effort is underway to rebuild the country's education system and to get all Afghan children back in school, the adult population, responsible for the immediate reconstruction of Afghanistan, also needs to upgrade skills and knowledge, UNESCO said.

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. According to UNESCO, 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 the Asia Pacific Cultural Centre (ACCU).

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