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Press Release

USAID and International Rescue Committee to launch $160 million Pakistan Reading Project

The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded the International Rescue Committee $160 million to implement the Pakistan Reading Project, an extensive education program in Pakistan aimed at tackling one of the highest child illiteracy rates in the world.

Through the Pakistan Reading Project, the IRC and 10 partner organizations will work to improve the quality of reading education in 38,000 schools and advance and develop the reading instruction skills of 94,000 teachers over the next five years.

“The launch of the Pakistan Reading Project represents a long term commitment from the IRC and USAID to reach 3.2 million children with improved reading programs and ensure that 2.5 million of them are reading at grade level,” says John Keys, the IRC’s senior vice president of international programs. “We anticipate that these boys and girls will carry these skills with them into secondary and tertiary education, and then into adulthood. They are the future of Pakistan.”

Pakistan is one of the few countries where illiteracy rates are actually increasing. A 2010 study by the Brookings Institution showed that there were 47 million illiterate adults in Pakistan and that the number is likely to grow to 50 million by 2015. According to government statistics, Pakistan’s primary school enrollment rate is only 66 percent and some 7.2 million primary school age children are not in school. The situation in Pakistan has been widely described as an educational emergency.

The IRC and its partners will be working with Pakistan’s provincial and area governments to provide the highest quality literacy instruction in primary schools across the country, with a focus on underserved rural communities where access to elementary education is limited. The project will expand the number of colleges and universities offering rigorous teacher training in reading and specialized bachelor’s and associate degrees in education. The project will complement other education initiatives being implemented by the Government of Pakistan, USAID and other international partners.

“The foundation of a high-performing education system is primary school,” says John Shumaker, a career global educator who will be overseeing the project for the IRC. “If we make an impact there for children in Pakistan, the benefits will be profound and long term.”

The International Rescue Committee has worked in Pakistan since 1980, delivering extensive humanitarian assistance in response to mass refugee influxes, natural disasters, and internal strife and displacement. Throughout, the IRC has closely partnered with Pakistan’s government to ensure that the most vulnerable children have access to education. With the Pakistan Reading Project, the IRC continues its commitment to helping Pakistan develop its greatest resource—its children.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.