Literacy challenge in Afghanistan needs serious action

20 Apr 2009

Literacy challenge in Afghanistan needs serious action

KABUL - The Education for All, Global Action Week, is launched today in Afghanistan. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are calling on all stakeholders in Afghanistan to take serious action towards overcoming the challenges to improving literacy in the country.

Particularly attention must be given to those vulnerable to exclusion and marginalisation – including women, people with disabilities, members of minority groups and those living in extreme poverty.

Addressing the challenges posed by the low literacy rate in Afghanistan contributes to the eradication of poverty, access to health, sustainable development and the ability of Afghans to enjoy a peaceful and democratic society.

UNESCO and UNICEF welcome the theme of youth and adult literacy – this is the least focused upon of the education goals. In Afghanistan, this focus is critical, given that at least 11 million Afghans aged 15 and over are in need of literacy and skills development.

Afghanistan is one of the least literate countries in the world. According to the 2005 Millennium Development Goals Report for Afghanistan, approximately 34 percent of the population is literate – 50 percent are men and 18 percent are women.

Statistics for the rural parts of the country, where 74 percent of Afghans live are dire. In those areas it is estimated that 90 percent of women and 63 percent men cannot read or write.

Despite these daunting figures, literacy and non-formal education programmes are priority areas within the National Education Strategic Plan.

Both UNESCO and UNICEF are currently working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education to implement non-formal literacy programmes. The Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan programme of UNESCO will operate in 18 provinces, providing 600,000 learners with literacy, post-literacy and skills training by 2013. 60 percent of the students will be women.

UNICEF’s literacy initiative – Women’s Literacy and Empowerment Project operates in all 34 provinces and will contribute in achieving a 20 percent increase in literacy rate for women by 2013.
In order to safeguard the gains that are being made in the field of literacy, UNESCO and UNICEF are strongly urging the government and local communities across Afghanistan to renew their commitments to protect schools, literacy centres, learners and teachers from violent attacks. Together we advocate that the sanctity of learning facilities should be respected, the lives of learners and teachers safeguarded, and that schools and literacy centres should not be used by any parties to conflict for operations or political reasons.

UNESCO and UNICEF are urging all government Ministries, NGOs, civil society groups and local communities to take the opportunity to participate in Education for All Global Action Week and to renew their commitment for improving literacy and education for all in Afghanistan.

Dari - Pashto


For more information journalists should contact:

Mohammad Amin Sadiqi, UNESCO on 0799 125 292 or
Nazifullah Salarzai, UNAMA on 0797 662 504 or