CAIRO: The illiteracy rate in Egypt decreased to 26 percent, a slight drop from last year, an official said earlier this week.
Raafat Radwan, executive director of the General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education (GALAE), said that campaigns to eradicate illiteracy have succeeded in educating 450,000 people.
Radwan added that the problem of illiteracy is related to the country’s development and is as important an issue as poverty, squatter settlements and street children.
Last year, Egypt’s illiteracy rate was 27.3 percent, around 16.5 million people, said Saeed Abdel Gawad, head of GALAE, Cairo branch.
Women account for 69 percent of the total number of illiterate people in Egypt, leaving men at 31 percent. Illiteracy is also more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
“A quarter of all Egyptians are illiterate, which is a huge number. We have come up with strategies to completely eradicate illiteracy in Egypt, Abdel Gawad said.
National campaigns to eradicate illiteracy have been particularly active ever since the foundation of the GALAE in 1991.
GALAE has been struggling with getting accurate statistics since it started operating. In 1996, there were 17.6 million illiterate people in Egypt, a rate of 39.3 percent, said Abdel Gawad, referencing the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS.)
“Ten years later, looking at CAPMAS statistics, we found that number only decreased to 17.1 million, and the illiteracy rates went down to 29.3 percent even though the GALAE had educated more than 5 million illiterates. So, where did they go? he asked.
After examining the statistics, Abdel Gawad explained, they discovered that in those 10 years there were 2.3 million school dropouts. In the 2006 statistics, they were counted as illiterates because, according to the research center at the American University in Cairo, 30 percent of dropouts who stay away from school for a long period eventually become illiterate.
Another reason for the discrepancy is a group referred to as “can read and write but don’t have a degree. This group amounted to 8.5 million in 1996 and in 2006, they were 7.2 million; therefore, 1.3 million people from this group attended the classes as illiterates even though they are not.
This is why, Abdel Gawad said, “statistics have not change much despite our efforts.
“A major obstacle we are facing is that the illiterate person has no desire to be educated, because, as they put it, ‘what did the educated people get?’ This is a result of the socioeconomic problems in the country, said Abdel Gawad.