Afghanistan Launches Cell Phone Literacy Programme

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Afghanistan has launched a new literacy programme that enables Afghan women deprived of a basic education during decades of war to learn to read and write using a mobile phone.

The phone is called Ustad Mobile (Mobile Teacher) and provides courses in Dari, Pashtu and mathematics. The phones are distributed free to students by the Ministry of Education with the help of donors.

The Mobile Teacher software was developed by Paiwastoon, an Afghan IT company, with US $80,000 (4.2m AFN) aid and is designed to tackle one of the worst illiteracy rates in the world by riding the growing wave of mobile phone use.

Despite millions of girls now attending schools, Afghanistan's literacy rate among women remains at just 12.5%, compared to 39.3% for Afghan men, according to the UN.

"This is the first time audio-visual literacy learners have the chance to receive lessons on their cellphones," Mike Dawson, CEO of Paiwastoon, told AFP.

The free app can be installed on all mobile phones with a memory card slot and a camera. Individual lessons, which will also be made available on the Ministry of Education website, will teach new words and phrases.

More subjects can be added later, Dawson said.

At the moment, some 100 students are using the Mobile Teacher in a pilot project in Kabul, with plans to roll the project out across the country, the education ministry said.

"Our focus and target is mostly on uneducated women," said the ministry's director of programmes, Allah Baz Jam.

Originally published by Central Asia Online

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