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Afghan Female Literacy Centres bring knowledge and new priorities to remote areas

By Farida Ayari

NILI, Afghanistan, 11 October 2010 – Around 30 girls and women ranging in age between 12 and 70 sit in a small room in Nili, the capital of Afghanistan’s remote Daikundi province. Some have brought their children to the class, where they are learning to read for the first time.

Video: UNICEF reports on Female Literacy Centres that are helping to educate women in remote regions of Afghanistan.  Watch in RealPlayer


“Before I had enrolled in this literacy course, I mistakenly strayed in the wrong direction each time I was visiting a hospital,” recalled Razia, 24, who said she couldn’t read the street signs. “A doctor had to show me the correct way. I was so embarrassed of being uneducated,” she added.

Thanks to the Female Literacy Centre, which receives support from UNICEF, Razia can now read – and doesn’t get lost anymore.

Enthusiasm for learning

A little boy observes with curiosity as two older women work at practicing spelling. Nearby, Nouria, a 19-year-old teacher, teaches life skills.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Beard
Nouria, 19, is a young teacher at a Female Literacy Centre in Nili, the capital of Afghanistan's remote Daikundi province.

“Our students were registered in their area and they come from far,” said Nouria. Emphasizing her students’ enthusiasm to learn, she added: “These women say that they do not want to remain blind as they were in the past.”

According to the National Risk and Vulnerability Report (2007-2008), the estimated national adult literacy rate is approximately 26 per cent – 12 per cent for women and 39 per cent for men. In rural areas such as Daikundi province, the situation is more acute with an estimated 93 per cent of adults, mostly women, lacking basic reading and writing skills.

This province, with a population of 500,000, is a priority area for UNICEF, where the presence of international and national non-government agencies is scarce. Work toward educating women in remote regions is part of a global push to reach the most vulnerable and ultimately to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals – a set of internationally recognized targets for reducing poverty – by the year 2015.

Influence on families

Almost 125 Female Literacy Centers (FLCs) have been established in Daikundi. Some 3,750 young girls and women are enrolled in these centres, which are supervised by the Department of Education. Around 30 students are enrolled in each nine-month literacy course.

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Beard
Women, many with their children, attend a class at Female Literacy Centre in Nili, Afghanistan.

In Daikundi province, UNICEF provides learning materials and textbooks to all students and teachers in the FLCs, in addition to supplying classroom material such as black board and floor mats. UNICEF also sponsors and organizes periodic trainings for teachers.

Information from the courses also filters back to the women’s families, infusing new ideas into communities.

“Through my lessons, I teach these women to change their behaviours within their family,” said Nouria. “In the past, they would be beaten by their husbands if they tried to go out, but now the husbands allow them to attend these courses as they learn useful life skills.”

Changing priorities

And the impact on children is palpable, as well.

“When women in the family know how to read and write, children can learn from them,” said Rahima, 23. “Children feel that if my mother does this, it is a good thing and I will do the same.”

Head of the Education Department in Daikundi Abdul Waheed Vasseq said that the FLCs have changed many people’s thinking in this remote area, with more community members valuing prioritizing education. 

“Parents who participate in these literacy courses have begun to send their children to school,” he said. “Despite their financial problems, they have understood the importance of education and have decided to work hard to fund their children’s education.”



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