Literacy key to helping rebuild Iraq
July 27, 2008
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - Iraq is targeting the more than 6 million illiterate Iraqi adults through a National Literacy Campaign. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization estimates more than 60 percent of the adult population in Iraq cannot read or write.
This was not always the case; at one time, Iraq was considered one of the more educated Arab nations, due mainly to the National Literacy Campaign of 1976-1982.
According to 1979 statistics, 6,000 men and 1.4 million women were enrolled in the programs, while 23,800 literacy centers employed 73,000 teachers and 6,300 supervisors/administrators.
War and economic hardships 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 discovered during transition efforts for Sons of Iraq members hoping to move into the Iraqi Security Forces.
ISF members must be able to read and write. Mr. Fred Collie, civilian police assistance training team training directorate, wrote that a literate "police force is essential to professional, democratic policing," and "illiteracy poses a significant barrier to the efficient and effective development of the Iraqi Police services."
UNSECO also notes a connection between literacy and the prevention of criminal activity and the influence of extremists.
"Literacy helps to cultivate ones critical thinking skills. 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," said Maj. Virginia Brady, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion.
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 two stages; al-asas (the basic) and al-tukmiel (the supplementary).
Al-asas is divided into two 4-month periods. The first four months cover the basics of reading, writing and mathematics.
Al-tukmiel is divided into two 7-month periods. Over the 14 month period, five subjects are covered: English, science, social studies, mathematics and Arabic/Kurdish reading and writing.
Once a student completes the second stage, they 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 contain a picture of the graduate.
Students can take the National Exam, called the "Bachelorette," after completing al-tukmiel. The Bachelorette qualifies Iraqis 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 al-Hawija district in northern Iraq. Five hundred Sons of Iraq are participating in the program to help pass the ISF literacy exam.
As of April 2008, there were seven other literacy programs in Iraq. In the Multi-National Division-Center area of operation, 13,000 women have been trained throughout Maysan, Qadissiya, Wasit and Basra Provinces.
"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope," said Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former secretary-general of the United Nations.
"It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories," he said.
An investment the people of Iraq continue to make.