The Iraqi Ministry of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiated a joint programme last week designed to eradicate adult illiteracy in Iraq.
Under the programme, a UNESCO grant of $1.5 million will be equally distributed among 25 local civil society organisations. The funds will create 125 community centres throughout Iraq to provide basic education and life skills training to 7,000 Iraqi men and women.
The programme "will strengthen the ministry's efforts aimed at reducing rates of illiteracy in the country by half within the framework of a national development plan that continues until the end of 2015," said Adel Abdul Raheem, director general of general education for the ministry.
The 25 organisations slated to receive the UNESCO grant were selected from among 80 non-governmental organisations that were evaluated for several months, Raheem said.
UNESCO will follow up on the selected organisations to ensure they are "setting up the community centres, equipping them with the necessary supplies and requirements to teach reading and writing to those who are illiterate, and training them in life skills and professions," he told Mawtani.
Raheem said the ministry has opened 1,000 literacy centres throughout Iraq since late 2010, benefiting about 100,000 people.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that Iraq's adult illiteracy rate was 22% between 2005 and 2010. Women, particularly those in rural areas, represent the largest amount.
"Iraq needs five to 10 years in order to be able to wipe out illiteracy completely," Raheem said.
Waleed Hussein, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, told Mawtani that the new literacy programme "was the result of a series of consultations and bilateral talks the ministry held with the UNESCO office in Iraq with participation from representatives of local civil organisations."
"The programme's goal for this year is the eradication of illiteracy among 7,000 Iraqis between the ages of 15 and 55 of both sexes, as well as re-qualifying their skills," he added.
Hussein said the ministry intends to launch a large-scale literacy campaign before the end of June, adding that 28 billion Iraqi dinars ($24 million) from this year's budget will be allocated to fund the campaign.
"The UNESCO programme comes as part of the partnership and joint strategic co-operation between Iraq and the United Nations to promote education among Iraqis," Adel Shershab, chairman of the parliamentary committee on education, told Mawtani.
Shershab underscored "Iraq's need for consultations and technical expertise provided by [UNESCO] in this field."