On 21 August 2014, Mr. Defourny, Director of the Division for Cooperation with Extrabudgetary Funding Sources of UNESCO signed an agreement with Mrs Anne Huhtamäki, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to UNESCO, acting on behalf of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, to support UNESCO’s Literacy program in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at about 31% of the adult population (over 15 years of age). Female literacy levels are on average only 17%, with a high variation indicating a strong geographical and gender divide.
In response to the high illiteracy rate and these literacy disparities, the Government of Finland is joining other donors such as the Government of Japan and the Swedish International Cooperation Agency (SIDA), in supporting UNESCO in one of the largest adult literacy programmes in Afghanistan, called “The Programme for Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA)”.
ELA is a national programme of the Ministry of Education that aims to build capacity of the government to work on improving the level of literacy, numeracy, and vocational skills of the adult population. This third phase of the programme is the continuation of phases one and two that covered 600,000 literacy learners. The third phase of the programme began in 2014 and will continue till 2016, aiming to provide literacy to an additional 600,000 learners across 30 provinces.
Mr. Defourny expressed his gratitude for this substantial contribution of approximately 3 million USD and explained that the generous support of the Government of Finland will enable the programme to expand to three provinces of Kabul, Takhar, and Sar-e-pul. The funds will be used for extremely important project activities, such as the provision of basic-general literacy (BGL), which focuses on the initial learning of reading and writing for those adults who have never been to school. In addition, the support of the Government of Finland will help UNESCO with the development of the skills-based literacy (SBL) instructional materials and training, which will focus on the identification of skills demanded by the Afghan population, especially women in the age range of 15-45.
Mrs Anne Huhtamäki conveyed a message on behalf of her Government, and stressed that the specific focus on women and girls in this program was key for their decision to support it. “Education for girls and women is a strong tool to increase the overall wellbeing of their families and to strengthen women's role in the society”, Mrs. Huhtamäki said. She concluded by expressing her confidence in UNESCO and trust that the ELA program will have a sustainable impact for the overall development of Afghanistan