Anbar officials announced on Monday (September 17th) the launch of a major literacy campaign, offering courses to all age groups - including children who have dropped out of school, women and the elderly - across the province.
Dr. Moneim Obaid al-Rawi, member of the educational supervision committee of Anbar's education directorate, said a specialised education committee has "selected learning centres in the districts and sub-districts of Anbar, provided the curricula and other necessities that students require and allocated teaching staff for every subject".
He told Mawtani the campaign will run for eight months.
According to al-Rawi, the committee will continue to survey villages and rural areas to determine the rate of literacy across Iraq in a comprehensive study. In addition, it will hold mass meetings to urge tribesmen to register their children in school and convince them not to prevent their children from attending school, so these children can to learn how to read and write.
"The rate of illiteracy across the districts and sub-districts of Anbar is over 27% among children, women, men and the elderly, making it necessary [for us] to conduct an urgent campaign to wipe out illiteracy and provide all the preparations and requirements to teach them to read and write as a first step," he said.
Shareef al-Halbousi, who is in charge of following up on the campaign, told Mawtani the initiative is part of an integrated approach carried out by specialised teaching staff.
"More than 106 teaching centres have been selected in all cities in Anbar, along with a staff of about 218 male and female teachers covering all specialisations," he said.
"A number of organisations and civic institutions focused on education and learning have been involved in Anbar’s literacy campaign in co-operation with [the relevant] government departments, and will hold mass seminars and popular conferences to wipe out ignorance among all classes in Anbar society," he added.
The high "percentage of illiteracy in Anbar is due primarily to terrorist operations that used to target people’s security, and exploit their fears that their children would be targeted at school," al-Halbousi said. "But after security in Anbar became stable, the situation changed for the better."
"The second phase [of the campaign] will include training professional tradesmen and finding them jobs as well as offering them loans and grants to make their projects successful," he said.
Hilal Mohammed, campaign supervisor and trainer, told Mawtani, "There is a serious desire among the young and elderly men, and even among the disabled, to take part in these courses."
The campaign features four courses a day that run for a cumulative total of two and a half hours, and training centres will remain open five days a week, he said.
"All illiterate age groups will be urged, through the media, to register in the training courses," he said.
Kenaan Lutfi, 37, a resident of Ramadi, welcomed the campaign.
"My friends and I who do not read or write were extremely happy when we submitted our applications to join the literacy courses, and were given a full load of study supplies and learning books," he said.
"There are young and middle-aged men and even elderly people at these [literacy centres] because knowledge has become very important in life to know things and to understand what is going on around us," he told Mawtani.
"I work at an industrial shop. There are materials and supplies that have symbols and numbers on them, and so I need someone who can read to know what the writing is. This made me insist on learning to read and write to avoid making a mistake in the future," he said.
Shaima al-Ani, 39, who comes from the Heet district in western Anbar, told Mawtani she seeks to learn how to read so she can be a better mother to her children.
"There are always newspapers and magazines that the educated can read, but I usually turn the pages only to look at pictures, and this encouraged me to learn how to read and write, so I can answer any question my children may ask," she said.
"An educated woman is better than an illiterate one in raising her children in order to build a family that is able to work, which will ultimately help develop the country," she said.