News: Communities embrace literacy program throughout Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Dayan Neely
HERAT PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan government, working with coalition Special Operations Forces, recently reintroduced a radio literacy program throughout Afghanistan.
To nourish Afghan citizens’ excitement about education, link the government to its people and increase the populous' listenership to the radio, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan implemented the Radio Literacy Program.
The radio has been the primary source of news, current events and entertainment, and provides opportunities for citizens to communicate with local law enforcement and now GIRoA is also offering basic-level education over the airwaves.
As illiteracy is common throughout Afghanistan, citizens of all ages and genders are participating in the program from the comfort of their own home. Villagers in provinces throughout the country are tuning in their radios during certain evenings to follow along with the program.
During the last four months, more than 28,000 books have been distributed throughout the country, which is a 350 percent increase compared to the same time last year, with more books being produced in Afghanistan, Qatar and the U.S. to meet the ever growing demand.
RLP workbooks are distributed to the villagers by Afghan Local Police, ministers of education and village elders. Then, villagers listen to the radio and follow along with the lessons in their workbooks. The villagers’ progression is tracked by their RLP mentors, who are ALP leaders, teachers, mullahs, or government officials.
“Some villages focus more on children, due to the lack of regular schools,” said a coalition SOF team member. “However, adults are also encouraged to participate, and do, in most villages.”
For some villages, the ALP is the main facilitator for the program, by not only distributing the workbooks, but also tutoring participants and mentoring the success of the program in their area.
In the Sanowghan village, Shindand province, the ALP commander recently addressed education to the public during a call-in show.
“Education is important in [the Zerekoh valley],” he said. “Anyone that wants to participate in the program should stop by [an ALP checkpoint] and we will collect the names, so we can obtain more RLP books for them.”
The next day, 40 workbooks were immediately distributed and the ALP was requesting more books to satisfy villagers’ increasing desire to participate.
Meanwhile, in Badghis province, Aq Murad, the Bala Morghab Minister of Education, distributed at least 50 workbooks to villagers and a women’s literacy group.
“By doing this, the ALP and ministers of education show citizens the Afghan government’s concern for improving Afghan lives,” said the coalition SOF team member.
As more citizens listen to the radio, they will become generally more informed, the coalition SOF team member added. They will connect more with their district and provincial government and be able to communicate with the ALP and GIRoA through call-in shows.
Coalition SOF studies show Afghan citizens throughout the country are increasingly participating in the literacy program and displaying very positive results. More citizens are calling in to their local radio station and being able to discuss current conditions of the village as a result of the RLP’s success.
“Through RLP, communication and knowledge will increase between GIRoA and the people of Afghanistan,” said the coalition SOF team member.
During a call-in radio show, a Sanowghan villager spoke about how the RLP is allowing citizens to talk about the ALP.
“The relationship between the villagers and ALP has improved because [the citizens] are able to voice their complaints to the ALP over the radio, causing the ALP to be more respectful to citizens,” he said.
“The positive ALP news stories and the commanders talking on the radio make the locals more comfortable with the ALP,” said the Sanowghan ALP commander.
The Sanowghan ALP commander also said communication between the Afghan citizens and their government is cultivated by education and their ability to access it through the same medium: by listening to the radio.
“All of the children are very excited about RLP and it will greatly help their future,” said the Sanowghan ALP commander. “The students think education is important and are committed to finishing the program.”
The program teaches basic literacy, but is also intended to instill the desire for further education and its pursuit, through GIRoA.
“Without exception, villagers throughout the [country support] the program,” said the SOF team member. “They have said that the programs are easy to follow and all participants intend to stick with it.”