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    Literate Afghans are key to sustainability



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Mark Bell 

    NATO Training Mission Afghanistan

    KABUL, Afghanistan - Currently, less than 20 percent of Afghans in the force are functionally literate. This means that more than 80 percent cannot read written orders or write reports.

    “We know examples of personnel officers and maintenance personnel being illiterate,” said Smitsmans. This hampers combined training efforts and makes it difficult to get to a posture of sustainability in the force.

    NTM-A is charged with assisting the Afghan National Security Forces, along with the Afghan Ministry of Education, to get those Afghan forces to a literacy level that is commensurate with sustaining a thriving professional Afghan force.

    This is done through milestones of literacy levels one, two and three. Level one is equivalent to what is taught and learned to an elementary student in grade one, letters, numbers and basic words. Subsequently, level two is learning to read, and level three is reading to learn. The goal is to get all ANSF to a level three functionally literate end.

    “Level three graduates are considered to be functionally literate,” said Guillaume Smitsmans Commander in the Royal Netherlands Navy, and chief of NTM-A’s Literacy and Language Division. “That means they are ready to use their reading and writing abilities as a tool for further education.”

    Since 2009 more than 255,000 ANSF members have been taught up to a level one literacy rate, and that number is expected to increase to more than 300,000 by the end of 2014. Level two literacy numbers are currently 106,000, with projections of 130,000, and level three rates are at 86,000, with up to 110,000 by the end of the year.

    Train-the-Trainer, or T3 is the second part of the NTM-A literacy training program which trains literate ANSF to become literacy instructors.

    “The T3 program is designed to build an organic literacy training capability within ANSF by training up to 2,500 Literacy instructors,” said Smitsmans.

    The current NTM-A Literacy program will be terminated at the end of the year. Leaders and mentors from NTM-A, as well as key leaders from Afghan Ministries of Interior, Defense and Education met for a Literacy Stakeholders Conference recently, to discuss sustaining literacy programs for the Afghan forces once NATO’s training mission here ends.

    The ANSF does not have any long-term literacy programs in place yet; there only exists rough plans to use T3 graduates for training said Smitsmans. For now, the ANSF rely on continued foreign support for their post 2014 literacy programs.

    “Continuity for developing the ANSF cannot effectively exist without continuity for developing literacy levels, as literacy is the basis for any professional advanced training,” said Smitsmans.

    “This conference is an attempt to get things in motion by providing information and perspectives, to encourage the highest Afghan ministry levels to actively support literacy continuity,” said Smitsmans.

    The Literacy and Language Division in NTM-A has made great strides in a small amount of time, but it may take another 10 years to effectively use the capabilities that have been taught during the past four years.

    “NTM-A will continue advising ANSF to make effective use of its T3 program,” said Smitsmans. “The focus on institutional literacy training will shift from country-wide to centralized training at training centers.”

    Guidance from ministry level officials in the Afghan government is needed to enforce a timely breakthrough in continuity plans development and implementation of these programs.

    “Training must take place in the recruiting phase to ensure effectiveness and efficiency, as well as to set conditions for improved accountability and oversight,” said Smitsmans.

    Continuing to pursue commitment and ownership from the ANSF to their literacy improvements, can lead to the desired end state of having a professional and self-sustaining Afghan force with funding support once NTM-A has gone.

    “NTM-A's approach towards ANSF literacy training continuity will be amended in order to ensure that future foreign support will lead to an effective use of resources,” said Smitsmans.



    Date Taken: 03.31.2014
    Date Posted: 04.04.2014 09:39
    Story ID: 124256
    Location: KABUL, AF 

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