The Iraqi cabinet approved an illiteracy elimination bill Monday (February 8th) and referred it to parliament for ratification. In the meantime, the Ministry of Education is preparing a campaign to end illiteracy in Iraq.
The government's official spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, released a statement about the bill.
"The new legislation will open horizons for a social category that has been denied access to education," the statement said. "The law will also pave the way for dealing with illiteracy resulting from the circumstances of the current stage, as enshrined under the constitution, given that education is an essential element for the progress of society."
According to the statement, "The right to education is guaranteed by the state for its citizens as per the articles of Iraqi constitution and in implementation of its missions to eliminate illiteracy and get illiterate people to a level of civilization that would enable them to develop their lives culturally, socially, and economically, and also enable them to practice the rights and obligations of good citizenship."
The illiteracy elimination bill, which was also ratified by the Iraqi Presidential Council, covers all Iraqis aged 15 through 55 who do not know how to read or write.
According to al-Dabbagh, classes will be held in two stages for seven months each. The first "basic" stage will be followed by a second "complementary" stage, with a 15-day break in between. There will be verbal and written tests for the students at the end of each stage.
Once students have completed both stages, they will be awarded a certificate, allowing them complete their studies in schools beginning in the fifth grade.
To prepare for the launch of the program, the Ministry of Education formed a supreme body called the Illiteracy Elimination Authority (IEA), headed by the Minister of Education or his representative.
Each province will also have an executive body and illiteracy elimination council, which will in turn form illiteracy elimination sub-councils in towns, districts, and sub-districts.
"The new law aims at eliminating illiteracy and preventing a relapse in it by implementing the illiteracy elimination project and opening specialized centers, and holding training courses and forming committees for this purpose in direct coordination with provincial departments in Iraq," said Ministry of Education media spokesperson Waleed Hussain.
According to Hussain, the IEA will work with the representatives of government ministries and organizations to draw up syllabi, plan for financial appropriations, study days, holidays, and methods for teacher selection, and provide incentives for students to join the illiteracy elimination centers.
The IEA and other organizations will also conduct field studies to ensure the program is successful and that potential problems are eliminated.
Several non-governmental organizations as well as the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Finance are collaborating on the project.
Kholoud al-Taey, manager of al-Raad charity foundation in Kirkuk, said her foundation has opened 11 centers in the province where newly graduated teachers give lessons in reading and writing.
"There is movement in this field because of the large number of citizens who quit education and now want to complete it," said al-Taey.
Meanwhile, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Abd Thiab al-Ajeeli met with representatives of UNESCO in Amman, Jordan on January 14th to discuss strategies for implementing the illiteracy elimination project in Iraq.
At the meeting, al-Ajeeli also discussed holding a scientific conference in Baghdad to examine the higher education strategy in Iraq, particularly ways to support and develop syllabi in a way that educates Iraqis according to the standards used by international universities.
PHOTO: [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images] The Iraqi government hopes to raise literacy among young people and adults.