Nepal launches drive to fight illiteracy

Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:52am EST
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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoist-led government launched a drive Wednesday to make more than a million people literate in three months, an ambitious move critics say is aimed at easing public frustration over the lack of development.

"This is a difficult task but we have to face the challenge," Education Minister Renu Kumari Yadav said, referring to a project that will see tens of thousands of volunteers fan out across the impoverished Himalayan nation to teach people to read and write.

Critics say the literacy move is an attempt to win popular support in a difficult year for Nepal, which is facing an acute electricity shortage that has triggered anti-government protests.

Making Nepal completely literate was one of the development goals of the Maoists after they ended a decade-long civil war and won an election in April last year.

But since taking power, the former rebels have been criticized for doing little to give relief to people, nearly one third of whom live on a daily income of less than a dollar.

The government aims to stamp out illiteracy among 7.8 million of Nepal's 27 million people in two years.

"The first phase of the campaign which began today will continue for three months," Yadav told Reuters Wednesday. "The second phase will start in mid-April."

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Valerie Lee)