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Iraqi Government Conducts National Literacy Program

By Army Spc. Tiffany Evans
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, July 28, 2008 – Iraq is targeting more than 6 million illiterate adults through a national literacy campaign.

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Iraqi policemen submit applications for modified security badges, May 22, 2007, in Salman Pak, Iraq. Literacy is a requirement for members of the Iraqi security forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates that more than 60 percent of the adult population in Iraq cannot read or write.

This was not always the case, U.N. officials said. At one time, Iraq was considered one of the more educated Arab nations, due mainly to a national literacy campaign conducted from 1976 to 1982. According to 1979 statistics, 6,000 men and 1.4 million women were enrolled in the program, while 23,800 literacy centers employed 73,000 teachers and 6,300 supervisors and administrators.

But war and economic hardships have caused the education system to suffer significantly in the last two decades. Schools fell into disrepair, enrollment dropped, and literacy levels stagnated.

As the country stabilizes, more Iraqis are looking toward participating in literacy programs -- information that coalition and Iraqi government officials discovered during transition efforts for members of “Sons of Iraq” citizen security groups hoping to move into the Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi security forces members must be able to read and write. Fred Collie, of the coalition’s civilian police assistance training team training directorate, wrote that a literate police force is essential to professional, democratic policing and noted that “illiteracy poses a significant barrier to the efficient and effective development of the Iraqi police services.” UNSECO also noted a connection between literacy and the prevention of criminal activity and the influence of extremists.

“Literacy helps to cultivate one’s critical thinking skills,” Army Maj. Virginia Brady, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, explained. “Critical thinking skills change the way a mind works and thinks about stuff. Children copy their parents, and by educating the adults, the children will want to learn, too.”

Women, in particular, directly affect children’s perceptions. Brady said a government-supported program could change how women perceive their world, and they can change how children see the world.

The current literacy program consists of basic and supplementary stages.

The basic stage is divided into two four-month periods that cover the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. Two seven-month supplementary stages cover English, science, social studies, mathematics, and Arabic or Kurdish reading and writing.

Students who complete the second stage will receive a certificate of completion issued by the Ministry of Education and signed by the local director of education. Each certificate will be tracked by a serial number and will contain a picture of the graduate. Students can take a national exam that qualifies them at the seventh-grade level and may entitle them to a better job position or higher pay.

The proposed literacy program is being tested in the Hawija district in northern Iraq, where 500 Sons of Iraq are participating in the program to help pass the Iraqi security forces literacy exam.

As of April, seven other literacy programs were operating in Iraq. In the Multinational Division Center area of operation, 13,000 women have been trained throughout Maysan, Qadissiya, Wasit and Basra provinces.

(Army Spc. Tiffany Evans serves in the Multinational Division Center Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Corps Iraq
Multinational Force Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi women attend a social gathering in Hawrajab, Iraq, Feb. 6, 2008. Women are a key element in the Iraqi government’s efforts to restore a high level of literacy in the country. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Angelica Golindano  
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