September 8th is International Literacy Day, an important reminder of the critical role that literacy plays in people's lives around the world. As the foundation for basic education, literacy is essential to eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality, and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
Afghanistan faces the key challenge of improving its literacy rate. Reading proficiency, especially among adults, remains low in the country, due to more than two decades of conflict. However, the demand for education is high and increasing.
To meet this challenge, the U.S. Embassy, together with the Afghan government and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is working to boost reading proficiency among children and adults throughout the country. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said, "The United States, in partnership with the Afghan government, is committed to helping Afghans build a better future for themselves through access to education."
The U.S. Embassy has partnered with Afghan civil society in a project that provides basic literacy classes to more than 7,000 adults, over half of them women, in all 34 of the country's provinces. The embassy also works with several NGOs to provide books to schools, orphanages, and community libraries throughout Afghanistan. The embassy continues to fund teacher training sessions to help Afghanistan's teachers use these products in their classrooms.
In partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Education, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a 5-year Learning for Community Empowerment Program, designed to provide literacy and productive skills education to 250,000 illiterate youth and adults in 20 provinces throughout Afghanistan. To date, USAID has reached 223,000 adults and youth, 60 percent of which are female, with literacy programs and self-help groups. In addition, USAID aims to build the capacity of the Ministry of Education's National Literacy Department to guide national efforts to increase literacy across the country.
Meeting the literacy challenge in Afghanistan is a key aim, with long-term implications. Ambassador Crocker said, "Literacy is more than a development goal; it transforms individuals and the society they live in. By learning to read, think critically, and better communicate in their own languages, Afghan children and their families gain skills for improving their lives."