September 8, 2017
Afghan women learn in a literacy course
Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day. Even now 780 million people in the world cannot read and write*1.
And in developing countries, there are great disparities in literacy between men and women and between urban and rural areas. When people cannot read, they cannot tell where a bus is headed and they may accidentally mistake agricultural chemicals for medicine and give them to a child.
JICA continues to provide literacy education assistance to Afghanistan, which has a literacy rate of 38%*2.
Learners in the literacy course solve math problems at the announcement ceremony ahead of the completion ceremony
"Islam encourages learning. Learning is a good thing. Everyone, please learn to read and write. Let women attend schools and literacy courses."
In communities where literacy committees were formed at JICA’s suggestion, village religious leaders are making this kind of appeal. Religious leaders are involved in the committees established in each village, along with village heads, elders and social activists.
In Afghanistan, both the Literacy Department of the Ministry of Education and the district literacy centers that actually operate literacy courses lack funding and manpower. Also, facilitators who teach literacy courses begin each year by going around to homes in villages and finding learners themselves.
To create local endeavors instead of relying completely on the national and district governments for literacy education, last year JICA began an initiative to establish literacy committees in the three areas of Kama District in Nangarhar Province, Mirbacha Kot District in Kabul Province, and Mazar-e-Sharif City in Balkh Province. This is part of the Project on Improvement of Literacy Education Management in Afghanistan (LEAF2). In these areas, the committee in each village created a list of illiterate people to make it easier to find learners and began checking on the attendance of the facilitators and learners.
Graduates receive certificates
The literacy course last two hours per day, six days per week, for nine months. People who complete the course are able to read, write and do basic arithmetic operations at a third-grade level.
In Kama District, Nangarhar Province, where the course began immediately in August of last year, a completion ceremony was held in July and 145 people total from seven villages graduated.
Graduates smile with certificates in hand
“I couldn’t write my own name before, but now I can read and write. I will continue my studies,” one of the graduates said.
A district literacy center staff member said, "In the past many people stopped attending classes at an early stage, but this time most participants stuck with it."
In other areas, though there were women whose families opposed them continuing with the course, in some cases members of the village’s literacy committee visited the women's homes and persuaded their families to let them keep going.
*1 Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2015, UNESCO
*2 Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2015, UNESCO