Over 800,000 Adults Being Educated through Adult Literacy Program
Kabul-(Afg Express Report) Thirty years of anti-Soviet and civil war, as well as economic woes, have resulted in widespread illiteracy in Afghanistan. In light of these challenges, Afghanistan has made considerable progress in the education sector over the past few years, especially with respect to the Literacy Education Program of 2002, which has increased the number of adult learners to 800,000.
The Deputy Ministry for Literacy of the Ministry of Education has implemented an extensive literacy education program across the country in close collaboration with and supported by national and international organizations. The literacy program is a nationwide program to educate illiterate adults. It is conducted in a different format and with different teaching methods than the general formal education system for youth. Adults are taught for a total of 9 months in two phases. The first is the 6 month basic course which is followed by a 3 month post literacy program. Completion of the full program gives graduates a literacy level equivalent to grade 3 competency in a regular education setting.
Mr. Allahbaz Jam, the Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy Program Director, described the adult literacy program as crucial for older Afghans and said that it was a government priority. All key policy documents of Afghanistan, including the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and the National Education Strategy Plan (NESP), have recognized the importance of achieving literacy for all Afghans and have underscored the need for realistic interventions to this end. The Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy is the government lead agency for planning, designing, implementing and coordinating all literacy initiatives.
Mr. Jam highlighted implementation of the adult literacy program in remote areas of the country. He emphasized that the foremost goal of the past five years has been to establish effective policies and operationalize the program in all areas of the country, particularly in the hardest to reach parts of the country. Previously, literacy enhancement departments were only in major provincial centers.
The Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy has been successful at establishing a general department for literacy enhancement in each of the provinces around the country. The departments began with seven staff members, but the number has since been increased to ten. There are now 412 fully operational departments in all districts of the country.
The major initiatives of the Deputy Ministry of Education for Literacy are the National Literacy Action Plan 2012-2015 and the National Literacy Strategy 2014-2020. There are joint actions for the development of a strategic plan for the literacy program by Deputy Minister of Education for Education in cooperation with national and international stakeholders. Many major national and international NGOs including United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), DVV International, Afghan National Association For Adult Education (ANAFAE) World Food Program (WFP), National Federation of UNESCO Association in Japan (NFUAJ) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in addition to other stakeholders, have been involved in the development of the strategic plan and implementation of literacy strategies.
Although the Deputy Minister of Education for Literacy has played a leading role in the development of the national literacy strategy, the ultimate success of the strategy depends on the collaborative efforts of Afghanistan’s literacy partners whose assistance is vital in coordinating the implementation of the challenging goals during over the next few years.
Stakeholders work together in Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) meetings, which include strategizing on how to promote cooperation and collaboration between all the stakeholders who are involved in delivering literacy and education services. The purpose of the meetings is to improve coordination, experience exchange, communication, service delivery performance, problem solving, and advocacy for maintaining national and international momentum, attraction of sustainable funding for program implementation, website updates, and a joint monitoring process of activities by involved organizations.
The monthly LIFE meetings are conducted under leadership of the Deputy Minister of Education for Literacy , and co-chaired by UNESCO and the secretariat of the national level of the Afghan National Association for Adult Education (ANAFAE). As the meetings have yielded good results for quality improvement in the literacy programs, ANAFAE and DVV International have supported the extension of LIFE meetings to the provincial level in Balkh, Herat, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Parwan, Sar-e Pul, Faryab, Kunduz, Takhar and Kabul. So far this year, 675 people from 30 governmental and non-governmental organizations have taken part in the provincial level LIFE meetings.
The interest in literacy education at the provincial level has been demonstrated unequivocally by the number of issues presented for addition to LIFE meeting agendas and the active meeting participation of attendees. Given the positive response, the meetings are going to be continued by Deputy Minister of Education for Literacy with technical and financial support from ANAFAE and DVV Intentional.
Another major achievement in the literacy effort has been in provinces with security issues. For the first time in 1988, there is a plan to promote literacy programs in those locales. Set to be launched next year, the programs will operate in mosques with the assistance of prayer Imams. The program is low cost and can be put in place with relative ease. The program can be maintained with help from local residents and by government budget assistance, as financial support from donor organizations is dwindling.
A major challenge to achieving country-wide literacy has been how to create a program which the Kuchis (nomads) can consistently attend. A policy for conducting literacy courses for the Kuchis was initially developed in 2010 and begun in 2011, but it is in need of revision to address persistent obstacles.
The Deputy Minister of Literacy Education has given a great deal of attention to raising literacy among women. Women are the most vulnerable segment of the population for being able to maintain access to literacy education. Sixty percent of participants in the adult literacy program are women. UNICEF and the Afghan National Association for Adults Literacy (ANAFAE) are among the contributors to women’s literacy.
Another important aspect of the program is the curriculum. The program curriculum is regularly reviewed at LIFE meeting capacity building and evaluation workshops for relevance to the abilities and needs of students. There is also training in modern teaching methods to enable instructors in the national adult literacy program to be effective in their efforts.
The Deputy Minister of Education for Literacy has been able to dramatically expand the areas served by the national literacy program. There are now 30,000 literacy centers open across the country, serving more than 800,000 students. Students who have earned a completion certificate in the 9 month adult literacy program will be allowed to join class four of regular school education. There are also special adult literacy classes around the country for students aged 65 and older who wish to continue in their education.
By: Abdul Maruf ‘Ghiasee’