Legal Certainty Thanks to Literacy

A police officer is issued with a warrant to arrest a suspect. However, he does not know who he is supposed to arrest. A search for a car is made more difficult by the fact that he cannot read registration plates. And a complaint made by a villager cannot be passed on to the relevant departments because the officer is unable to draft the complaint himself. These are just some of the everyday problems faced by many police officers in Afghanistan who are unable to neither read nor write.

For more than 25,000 members of the Afghan police force who have already taken part in literacy courses funded by the German Government, however, such scenarios are now a thing of the past. ‘Since learning to read and write, I’ve been able to carry out vehicle checks myself. I can now also refer to legislation and am therefore making a contribution to the rule of law in my country. I’m now able to perform my duties much better than before – I’ve become a better police officer,’ proudly says Rahim Hussain, who works for the police in Yakawlang District, Bamiyan Province.

For more than three years, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been implementing a literacy project for Afghan police officers on behalf of the German Government. Sultan Mohammad, course leader at the police headquarters in Bamiyan, explains why many of his fellow Afghans are unable to read or write: ‘Due to years of armed conflict, many of those attending my courses never had the chance to go to school – or simply couldn’t afford to do so. It’s common for young people in Afghanistan to have to start working at a very early age so as to contribute to the family income.’ He is emphatic in his reasons as to why he teaches on the courses: ‘Police officers are an important pillar of our society. I want to help them fulfil this duty better through their ability to read and write.’

The literacy of the police force is also extremely important for the Bamiyan Provincial Government. ‘Our police officers are guardians of the law. They can only carry out this role in full if they are literate,’ says Tahir Zuhair, Governor of the province.

With the Afghan Government’s backing, the participants in the literacy project are able to combine the courses with their work so that they do not suffer any loss of income. Six days a week, they are given two hours of tuition during their working day, in three different levels of learning. The topics covered are varied and relate to the officers’ work, while textbooks for the courses are specially adapted to the needs of the participants. Once they have acquired basic reading and writing skills, participants are taught about topics such as the basics of legal and professional knowledge for police, human rights, gender and environmental protection. After around 12 to 18 months of tuition, the police officers’ level of reading and writing is equivalent to that of the third year of primary school. Since 2017, GIZ has also been offering more advanced courses – at present, nearly 400 police officers have registered for courses in the province of Bamiyan alone; nationwide the number stands at 6,800. The basic course is also proving extremely popular, with current attendance figures of almost 30,000 people.

Karima, who is a police officer and a mother of five, would also definitely like to take the advanced course once she has completed level three of the basic course. ‘I always wanted to be a police officer and serve my country’s people. But before doing the literacy course, I wasn’t able to carry out all of the duties in a way that met my own expectations. For example, whenever a complaint had been made by a woman, I was unable to put it down in writing myself. Now I can document offences and forward them to the relevant bodies. In this way, I’m helping women to claim their rights.’

Outside of their day-to-day work too, the participants are benefiting from the literacy courses as the ability to read and write has enriched their lives. ‘For me, my whole life has changed since learning to read and write,’ stresses Karima. ‘Before, I was always dependent on other people and felt that I couldn’t go ahead and do things on my own – but that is all in the past. I have now taken control of my life.’


Date of publication: 12/2018
Project: Police Cooperation Project (PCP)
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Partners: Afghanistan Ministry of Interior Affairs, Afghan National Police
Implementing organisation: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Provinces: Nationwide
Project objective: The Afghan police force performs its tasks more professionally and in a more citizen-centric manner, thereby contributing to greater stability and security in Afghanistan.


'Police officers are an important pillar of our society. I want to help them fulfil this duty better through their ability to read and write.'
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