Recent government statistics detailing the Egyptian public's growing illiteracy rate has prompted greater co-operation between officials, academics and private organisations in order to tackle what some experts call a "scourge".
According to a June report issued by the Council of Ministers' Information and Decision Support Centre, nearly 27% of Egypt's 85 million citizens are illiterate. In addition, the female illiteracy rate is even worse -- some 20% higher than among males, particularly in the 15 to 35 age group.
"Illiteracy is one of the worst scourges of Egyptian society," said Hussam Fathi, a social sciences professor at Ain Shams University. "It hinders development, limits the nation's ability to compete with other countries and is the main cause of unemployment."
Fathi said a primary cause of illiteracy is rapid population growth, which has doubled in recent years and outpaced efforts by the government and civil society groups to combat the problem.
"The most expeditious solution is through full and comprehensive co-operation between governmental bodies and civil society groups that provide social services," he added.
Fathi also underscored the need for compulsory education to combat the spread of illiteracy.
"The attention in the next phase should shift to the schools in order to identify the negative aspects that make education repulsive to many segments of the Egyptian people, especially with regard to the congested non-beneficial curricula. Plans should be developed that appeal to students through the implementation of easy, advanced, and modern curricula in addition to educational activities that encourage learning," he said.
Currently, the government's efforts are focused on increasing the number of literacy centres as well as enhanced teacher preparation by enrolling educators in intensive training courses and introducing them to modern illiteracy eradication programmes, said Hamdi Abul-Ala, a representative with the Council of Ministers' Information Centre.
Abul-Ala said the adult programs include technological training on computers and the internet, and participants are taught how to leverage that technical knowledge in order to enter the labour market.
Following the January 25 revolution, civil society organizations and several private companies and religious institutions bolstered their literacy and adult education programmes.
In March, telecom giant Vodafone launched an initiative in partnership with UNESCO, Life Makers, and the General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education that involved 17 million Egyptians and with a budget of 50 million pounds (8.4 million dollars) in the first phase of its five-year plan.
Another programme is the Resala Charity Association's illiteracy initiative, in which the association's youth contract with the General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education. The association began another project to end illiteracy through the use of computers in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and the United Nations.
The General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education, in co-operation with the Ministry of Education, developed new plans that call for intensifying literacy campaigns in all Egyptian provinces, said authority public relations officer Radwan al-Hassan.
Al-Hassan told Al-Shorfa that the authority and the Education Ministry are assembling a new crop of teachers and training them in modern teaching methods. Some teachers are working full-time in literacy programmes while others are volunteers, including university graduates and students who volunteer social service work in lieu of military service, he added.
Egypt won the International Prize for Literacy in 1998 and 2010, but is still on the United Nations' E9 list, an educational progress index that ranks the top nine countries in terms of the number of illiterate citizens.