Liberia Education Program Targets Illiterate Women

    16 October, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    A United Nations agency estimates that 516 million of the world's women can not read and write. The U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- UNESCO says programs are needed to help illiterate women learn, although they are passed school age.

    Women make up two-thirds of all illiterate adults. The majority of these women live in West Africa, many girls in that area never go to school. But in Liberia, a new education program is giving women in their 30s, 40s and 50s another chance to learn to read and write.

    Pauline Rose heads UNESCO's worldwide monitoring report on Education for All, she says being illiterate causes huge problems in daily life. She notes situations like not being able to read directions on a medicine bottle, or the number on a bus.

    "So there are real practical concerns about when women are illiterate."

    Miss Rose says illiterate affects not only the women but also their families, because women are often the main caregivers of children. She says when women are illiterate, they are less likely to use health services.

    Some countries, like Senegal, have improved women's literacy rates through government efforts. They tell more girls in primary school and community programs about the importance of education. But there are still many nations where less than one in four women can read and write. They include Niger, Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso.

    Miss Rose says these countries need literacy programs that target women. She says there is a huge need for illiterate young women and adults to have a second-chance to read and write.

    Liberia for example, has launched a second-chance literacy campaign to teach women. The students never went to school, or they were forced to leave school because of ten years of civil war in the country.

    Lonee Smith is 35 years old, she is a student at the adult literacy school at the Firestone Liberia Natural Rubber Company in Margibi County. Her parents did not sent her to school, and she could not read or write.

    Now she is in the first grade and has those skills. She sells her goods at the market and can now count her profit without help. She says having a second chance at education has changed her life.

    "Today, I am a happy woman. I'm very proud."

    Liberia's Ministry of Education says 5,000 women currently study in adult literacy programs across the country.

    And that's the Education Report.